The Heat Is Online

Texas Drought -- 1996

The Boston Globe: July 21, 1996:

Granger, TEXAS July 21, 1996 -- Through the Southwest, farmers and ranchers are struggling with the second-worst drought to consume the region in this century. The affected states had less rain this season that at any time since record keeping began in 1896, according to metorologists at the Agriculture Department.

The south-central part of Texas, receives an average ranifall of 17.2 inches between January and June. This year, it got just 5.2 inches -- the lowest level ever measured.

Comparable amounts have fallen throughout the Southwest. Since last October, the affected areas in each of the seven states ranked at -3 or worse in the National Weather Service's drought index, indicating at least "severe droughts." The index spans from -7 to 7, with zero representing normal conditions.

Ironically, downpours in the Midwest during recent months have flooded out some feed cropes, exacerbating the problem for livestock breeders and consumers.

They're the ones being hurt most now, but their plight inevitably will have a significant effect on all Americans in the form of escalating supermarket bills.

The cost of milk already has soared nationally in the last few weeks, largely because of higher prices for scarce feed grains and economists predict bread, pasta and other wheat-derived products will soo follow suit. The prices of dairy products from ice cream to butter doubled at the processing level in the last six weeks.

"There are really going to be some wisespread repercussions of this situation that will be felt strongly by almost everyone for quite some time," said Samuel Curl, dean of the college of agricultural sciences at Texas Tech University.

Keith Collins, chief agronomist for the USDA in Washington, said it is too early to determine yet how steep or sustained the price increases might be, but he warned that the drought continues and cattle ranchers continue selling off their cattle, "potentially, costs to the consumer could rise quite substantially."

Most Americans received first news of the drought months ago in reports about dry weather causing abnormally early forest firest in the West. The same lack of rain has had other brutal repercussions as well, forcing many localities to impose severe water use restrictions because rivers, reservoirs and other supply sources are not being replenished.

Ironically, downpours in the Midwest during recent months have flooded out some feed cropes, exacerbating the problem for livestock breeders and consumers.

The southwest grows three-fourths of the nation's wheat, so the drought in large sections of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mixico, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona and Utah has had the most significant impact.

The affected states had less rain this season that at any time since record keeping began in 1896, according to metorologists at the Agriculture Department.

The south-central part of Texas, receives an average ranifall of 17.2 inches between January and June. This year, it got just 5.2 inches -- the lowest level ever measured.

Comparable amounts have fallen throughout the Southwest. Since last October, the affected areas in each of the seven states ranked at -3 or worse in the National Weather Service's drought index, indicating at least "severe droughts." The index spans from -7 to 7, with zero representing normal conditions.

Rick Perry, texas' agriculture commissioner, estimated the drought will cause $3 billion in farm-related damage and $6.5 billion in total damage to Texas this year. That makes it the worst natural disaster in the state's history, exceeding the $3 billion toll taken by Hurricane Alicia in 1983.

Also:

"Worst Drought Since '30's Grips Plains," The New York Times, May 20, 1996.