Drought losses in Oklahoma top $400 million for 2012

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STILLWATER, Okla. – Oklahoma absorbed more than $400 million in losses in 2012 due to the ongoing drought, according to estimates by researchers at Oklahoma State University.

The estimated $426,125,520 in losses include crops and livestock, as well as two new measures, wildfire property losses and municipal costs. Combined with last year’s $1.6 billion setback, the state has suffered more than $2 billion in drought-related agricultural losses since 2011.

“From the crops and livestock perspectives, there were much lower impacts this year that don’t necessarily speak to the severity of the drought,” said Dave Shideler, OSU Cooperative Extension economist for economic development. “Conditions were still very severe, and farmers and ranchers will need to continue to be careful about the ways they manage their land and herds.” 

The estimated losses for the 2012 drought in Oklahoma are:

  • Crops (hay, alfalfa, soybeans, cotton and grain sorghum) – $239,299,520
  • Livestock (lost pasture production, fewer winter stockers) – $157,109,000
  • Wildfire property loss – $27,299,000
  • Municipalities – $2,418,000

The estimates were generated using the most recently available U.S. Department of Agriculture – National Agricultural Statistics Service data. Wildfire losses and municipal costs were estimated based on feedback provided by Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service county educators.

Shideler said a number of factors contributed to this year’s lower loss estimates in spite of spreading drought conditions affecting the Great Plains and much of the western portion of the United States.

The biggest difference from last year to this year was the historically high rate of herd liquidation in 2011.

Also, moisture from winter weather resulted in good pasture land that cut down on the need for supplemental feed because of smaller herds.

A third factor came in the timing of a flash drought, a heightened drought over a short period of time, that hit Oklahoma in June and July, giving producers the chance to haul in strong wheat and early spring soybean harvests.

“What got impacted in terms of crops were summer crops such as summer soybeans, hay, alfalfa, cotton and sorghum,” Shideler said.

Two new figures added to this year’s estimates reflect costs associated with wildfire property loss and municipal expenditures for activities such as removing and replacing landscaping. Those calculations, which accounted for about $30 million combined, were captured through a new survey that researchers anticipate will be administered three times a year going forward.

“County Extension educators are helping us collect this data, and we believe the feedback will give us a clearer idea of the extended impact of the drought,” said Shideler. “We know there aren’t just farmgate issues associated with the drought, but there are some broader impacts as well.”

The 2012 drought loss estimates were shared publicly at the Oklahoma Water Research Symposium Nov. 13 in Tulsa.



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