The drought of 2011 continues to rack up agricultural losses as a new estimate is expected to surpass the original $5.2 billion estimate. Crop insurance indemnity payments in Texas have set a record with $2.5 billion in claims paid out through March 12, according to agriculture officials.
David Anderson, a Texas AgriLife Extension Service livestock economist who helped calculate the original estimate in August, which itself set a record told Chron.com, “As time went on, yields got worse and worse. I expect livestock and crop losses to get worse."
Travis Miller, an Extension service soil and crop sciences specialist who contributed to the August estimate, also believes the real impact is greater than $5.2 billion. More cotton acreage was abandoned than had been estimated last summer, and rising feed costs caused greater livestock losses, he said.
Nationally, agricultural insurance companies made almost $10.3 billion in crop insurance indemnity payments as of March 12, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency reports.
The $10.3 billion would surpass the old record of nearly $8.7 billion, which was set in 2008. However, that number could rise as not all claims have been reviewed, according to a spokesperson for National Crop Insurance Services, a trade group.
Texas' $2.5 billion in indemnity payments from 2011 is the top in the country, beating the second-highest, North Dakota, by almost $1 billion.
Last year’s drought caused dramatically reduced yields in other states as well, including Oklahoma and New Mexico. In Oklahoma, about 68 percent of the planted acreage was harvested. In New Mexico, it was less than 60 percent.
Crops particularly hard hit by the drought included cotton, sorghum, wheat, corn and sunflowers. Although irrigation helped some cotton acres, the crop still needed rainfall and as a result fell significantly short of anticipated yields.