The cost of agriculture loss in the state of Texas has reached a record $5.2 billion, and the Texas Panhandle knows all too well what that loss is like.
The lack of rain and intense heat has resulted in loss of crops and cattle. With crops being cut by more than fifty percent, hay is hard to find. And when it is found, a hefty penny is paid for it. According to Brandon Boughen of Potter County Texas AgriLife Extension, the normal price of hay is around 65 dollars per bale. But to make up for the fuel and freight used to haul in hay from other states and even Canada, hay can now be purchased for around 140 dollars per bale. That can get pricey when head after head of cattle have to be fed.
"2006 was really bad, 2011 has been monumentally worse," Boughen said. "I think it'll probably go down in the history books as the worst. I've talked to older producers; they say they've lived in the Panhandle for 60 years and have never seen anything like this before."
Therefore, many ranchers have made the difficult choice of selling their cattle. And with no cattle, there is no product.
Potter County records show that 801 acres of upland cotton failed, and summer wheat only produced ten bushels per acre as opposed to the 30 bushels for last year's winter wheat.
"We're looking at almost 2,000 acres, 2,000 reported acres of wheat failed thus far this year," Boughen said. "And not all wheat farmers report to the FSA. And that is just for Potter County alone."
Dr. Travis Miller of the Texas A&M Department of Soil and Crop Sciences agrees this may be the worst drought the Panhandle has ever seen.
"Virtually all of the dryland cotton crops from the High Plains was lost," Miller said. "I believe there's 4.2 million acres planted in the High Plains, three-quarters of that's dry land, 70 to 75 percent- big acreage of cotton lost."
Both Boughen and Miller agree rain is necessity to ease the suffering of the Panhandle. Without it, next season could be the same or even worse, and the numbers associated with agriculture loss throughout the state will keep increasing.
"If we don't get any rain or snow- a good, heavy snow," Boughen stated, "then that number's going to keep going up."