Lest recent precipitation, frozen and otherwise, lull Southwest farmers and ranchers into some kind of sense of drought relief, says Al Sutherland, coordinator for the Oklahoma Mesonet ag program, reminds them that things can go south in a hurry.
“A big drought is always lurking around,” says Sutherland. “We are now in a negative phase (lower than normal rainfall), and that can last a long time. We could see an extended period of below average rainfall.”
It’s happened before, and it’s expensive when it does. “Weather drives agriculture,” Sutherland says. The 2011 historic drought resulted in a $7.6 billion loss (2010 and 2011). A drought in 2005 and 2006 took $4.1 billion; a 2000 drought cost another $1.1 billion and the 1998 drought resulted in a $2.4 billion loss. Loss from the 2012 drought totaled $420 million. “We don’t have official estimates yet for 2013 and 2014 but the loss is probably close to $550 million.”
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