Drought persists at start of severe weather season impacting economic outlook

Drought persists at start of severe weather season impacting economic outlook
Rows of wheat grow in a field in the Panhandle; Source: KFDA
New growth blowing in the wind across a wheat field; Source: KFDA
New growth blowing in the wind across a wheat field; Source: KFDA
Rain falls in a Amarillo parking during the last episode of rain; Source: KFDA
Rain falls in a Amarillo parking during the last episode of rain; Source: KFDA
Irrigation pipes hang of a rig on a piece of farm land; Source: KFDA
Irrigation pipes hang of a rig on a piece of farm land; Source: KFDA

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Farmers are hoping for moisture after a dry spring season has them anticipating a low yield from their winter crops.

As we get in to May, usually the skies are gray and severe weather season is in full effect, bringing an ample amount of precipitation.

However, with April is in the books and only two incidences of rain the outlook for our drought does not look good.

"The drought is going to have a pretty significant impact on Texas Panhandle agriculture," says AgriLife Extensions Risk Management & Economist DeDe Jones.

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Due to the lack of moisture, this year's return could yield a drastic change.

"The fact that we had a drought during almost the entire wheat growing season," said Jones. "[Some] guys really had to look at the fact, is watering that wheat an extra two or three inches, is it really going to have a positive or negative effect on my bottom line."

For every extra inch of irrigation used, that can end up costing some farmers thousands.

"If you want to have them put in an extra, let's say 10 inches - at four dollars an inch, that's an extra $40 dollars an acre," demonstrates Jones. "So, on a 100 acre farm, that could be $4,000."

The rain outlook has minimal since the beginning of measurements in October.

"So right now, Amarillo has received .85 inches of precipitation so far this year," said Science and Operations Officer for the National Weather Service Amarillo office Stephen Bieda.

According to the current drought outlook, the month of April did no favors.

"Colors that are orange, red, that means we're still running a deficit from the last 30 days," said Bieda. "That means we're still continuing to fall behind in those areas when it comes to the drought situation."

Winter snowfall usually helps saturate the ground, providing a base water supply for crops.

This year, we saw a trace amount.

"Last time we saw something like this was the early 1950's," said Bieda. "You have to go back really far to find a situation where you received just as little snow."

These conditions can lead to a severe economic impact.

"Even if we do a multiplier effect and go all the way through the state of Texas, it has about a $10 million impact on the state of Texas," said Jones.

The drought is affecting crops and prices across the midwest.

Jones says one saving grace from the drought would be wheat becoming a commodity, forcing an increase in prices.

"USDA does projections basically every month," said Jones. "So, if they make a projection that production will be a little bit less this year because of the drought then markets will rally."

As for the upcoming growing season, Jones is hoping for a big change in the weather pattern.

"Forecasting, they're saying about a 50-50 chance of having normal rainfall," said Jones. "It's not a complete disaster yet. We'll know more in the next three to six months or so."

The thunderstorms we've had over the past couple weeks have been helpful to our drought, since they brought in an ample amount of precipitation and did not cause further destruction or damage.

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