Texas Hit with Worst Drought in 40 Years
April 29, 2011 • 9:17AM

While an unprecedented series of tornadoes has hit the Southeast, and the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers are threatened with the worst flooding since 1935, the state of Texas is experiencing the worst drought in more than 40 years, with high winds and heat causing "massive crop losses." A report released Thursday from a consortium of national climate experts, dubbed the Drought Monitor, said drought worsened along the Texas border with Oklahoma, and in western, central, and southern Texas.

Ranchers were struggling to feed and water cattle, and farmers were left to watch their crops shrivel. Some experts estimated that producers were giving up on as much as 70 percent of the state's wheat acreage. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Association said this week that the drought appeared to be the worst since at least 1967. Lost agricultural production in Texas was estimated to top $3 billion.

The lower-than-normal amount of moisture in the soil has caused widespread crop failures, including to the state's hard red winter wheat crop. Texas is a key production area for wheat. The losses there and in parts of the U.S. Plains hit by drought will aggravate already short supplies around the world.

Also, because Texas is the largest U.S. cattle state, the shrinking herd there could translate into even higher prices for beef in the United States and export markets, exacerbated by speculative games.

Data issued Thursday by Drought Monitor said 95 percent of Texas was suffering "severe drought," or worse, up from 92 percent a week earlier. More than 70 percent of the state was in the worse conditions of "extreme drought" or "exceptional drought." "High temperatures combined with no precipitation and high winds continue to drive widespread wildfires and have led to massive crop losses," the latest Drought Monitor report stated.