Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Wildfires and drought cost Texas billions

The Chicago Tribune via CNN: The Texas wildfires are adding economic trauma to a state that has already suffered billions of dollars in agricultural losses from an ongoing drought. The cost of the wildfires to homeowners could exceed $250 million, a record high for the state, according to Mark Hanna, spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas.

In the last week alone, 181 fires have burned some 16,000 acres, Hanna said, calling it a catastrophic year for the state. This is above and beyond the economic losses of at least $5.2 billion from the drought, according to Travis Miller, professor in the soil and crop sciences department at Texas A&M University. He said the multibillion-dollar figure applies to year-to-date losses as of Aug. 15, and the true cost has "surely exceeded that by now."

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas painted a grim portrait of the drought's impact on agriculture: "Comments from bankers noted widespread negative impacts of the dry conditions — low or nonexistent yields for many dryland crops, stress to irrigated crops and very poor pasture conditions," the bank said in its second-quarter survey of credit conditions.

The Dallas Fed also noted that many ranchers are sending their cattle to the slaughterhouse earlier than they normally would, pressured by bone-dry pastureland. "Respondents in several regions mentioned that farmers will likely collect crop insurance money to offset drought losses," the bank said. "There were numerous reports of ranchers liquidating their cattle herds due to inadequate grazing conditions and a lack of surface water."...

Don Comstock, with the 111th Engineer Battalion, TXARNG, leads a bulldozer through a fire break. The Texas National Guardsmen have been fighting the Texas wild fires for over 10 days, Bastrop, Texas, Sept. 7, 2011. Shot by Staff Sgt. Malcolm McClendon, Texas Military Forces, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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