The Cost of Oklahoma’s Drought: $2 Billion in Two Years

  • Joe Wertz

Al Jazeera English / Flickr

Researchers at Oklahoma State University have been analyzing the ongoing drought and estimating the state’s tab of overall economic losses.

The financial impact from drought-related crop and livestock losses, wildfire damage and other municipal costs totaled more than $426 million in 2012, researchers found:

Combined with last year’s $1.6 billion setback, the state has suffered more than $2 billion in drought-related agricultural losses since 2011.

Here’s the 2012 breakdown from the OSU researchers:

  • 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

On paper, the drought’s effects appear worse in 2011 than in 2012, but researcher Dave Sheideler says the numbers don’t “necessarily speak to the severity of the drought.”

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.