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Drought siphons more than $2 billion from Southwest crops and livestock

The 2000 drought has cost Southwest farmers and ranchers nearly $2 billion in crop and livestock losses and increased production expenses.

Losses in Texas will top $1 billion. Oklahoma agriculture has lost some $600 million and New Mexico farmers and ranchers have lost about $190 million.

A Texas Agricultural Extension Service report factors in fall harvested cotton, corn, sorghum and added expenses incurred by ranchers to feed and water livestock.

For the year, direct drought losses have cost Texas producers $1.096 billion, Extension economists say, with cotton the hardest hit commodity. Estimated cotton losses have reached $485 million as extreme heat and dry conditions devastated dryland cotton and limited growing potential in irrigated fields.

Dryland acreage that was harvested resulted in extremely low yields or yielded low-quality cotton, Extension officials said.

Other estimated agricultural losses include: Grain sorghum, $62 million; corn: $34 million; wheat, $153 million; added irrigation costs, $47 million; wheat grazing, $30 million; forage crops, $124 million; other crops, $56 million; added feed/water cost, $105 million.

Oklahoma Department of Agriculture spokesman Charles Freeman says Oklahoma cattle producers stand to lose more than $400 million to weight gain reductions and increased feeding costs. Row crop producers have seen significantly lower yields and increased production costs.

Oklahoma crop and livestock losses include:

Soybeans: of 500,000 acres planted, only 300,00 will be harvested. "The late-planted or double-crop acreage will be near zero bushels per acre," Freeman says. Early planted soybeans will produce an average yield. Loss estimate is $19.2 million (200,000 acres X 24 bushels per acre at $4 per bushel).

Cotton: 210,000 acres of dryland cotton will make one-fourth bale, compared to one bale. Loss estimate is 157,500 bales, $48.8 million.

Peanuts: 85,000 acres planted with 10,000 acres abandoned. Loss estimate is $7.8 million from dryland acreage and $6.75 million from irrigated land.

"An early freeze and October flooding will add to peanut losses," Freeman says.

Milo: 100,000 acres short, at 3,000 pounds per acre and $3 per hundredweight, $9 million.

Sorghum silage: 120,000 tons short, $2.4 million.

Corn: No loss for grain; 170,000 tons short on corn silage, $3.4 million.

Alfalfa hay: 450,000 tons short at $70 per ton, $31.5 million.

Beef cows: $208.8 million.

Beef steers and heifers: $250 million.

Freeman says beef cattle losses or added expenses include: Delayed or reduced wheat planting reduces stocker numbers and potential weight gains for cattlemen resulting in $150 million in lost revenue.

"Cattle also are coming off grass about 75 pounds lighter than average," Freeman says. "Based on a $50 per head loss, and 2 million steers on grass, that's another $100 million out of Oklahoma ranchers' pockets.

He says 1.275 million beef cows will require an extra two bales of hay, at $30 per bale, a $76.5 million expense. And 1.275 million cows will require an additional $20 in supplement and $20 in incidental costs, a $51 million loss.

In New Mexico, Farm Service Agency spokesman Scotty Abbott estimates reduced forage from native pastures has taken $161 million out of state ranchers' pockets.

Wheat losses are pegged at $18 million and grain sorghum at $6 million.

New Mexico State agencies indicate that reports are preliminary and conservative. A statewide drought task force is currently working to develop a more detailed estimate of losses and added production costs.

Drought conditions have hampered agricultural production through much of the Southwest for four of the past five years.

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