Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on December 18, 2000. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Ag Damage Estimates Exceed $300 Million
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The drought of 2000 hit Mississippi's farmers hard, with conservative estimates exceeding $300 million in lost revenues and increased production costs.
Charlie Forrest, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said many of the actual losses are near impossible to calculate. The hardest hit commodities were cotton, soybeans, cattle and forestry.
"Yield losses were significant, especially when compared to the five-year average. Cotton yields were down 96 pounds per acre and soybeans were down 5 bushels per acre," Forrest said. "Add this to the fact that more land than normal was never harvested, and you have a substantial impact. The lost revenue from abandoned acres of both crops was about $28.3 million."
Forrest said lower production and lower quality caused cotton producers to lose revenues of nearly $128 million, and soybean growers lost about $45 million.
Extension cotton specialist Will McCarty said cotton can grow under hot and dry conditions, but that doesn't mean it will flourish. The state's average yield was 649 pounds per acre, compared to 704 pounds from the previous year's drought harvest. The state's record harvest was 901 pounds in 1997, when the average price per pound was more than 7 cents higher than projected for the 2000/2001 crop year.
"The year 2000 is the first time Mississippi cotton growers have made less than 700 pounds per acre since 1995," McCarty said. "Not only was yield reduced by weather, but quality was hurt as well. The overall quality of the 2000 cotton crop is below average for Mississippi."
For cotton and other row crops, prices added insult to injury as weaker yields faced similarly weak prices. For example, if soybean yields are down 5 bushels per acre to 21 bushels and prices are averaging $1.30 lower than the five-year average of $6.30, the loss per acre would be about $60.
"The drought cost the forestry industry about $65 million in additional fire losses, seedling failure and individual tree mortality," Forrest said.
During typical years, fires result in about $46 million in lost trees in Mississippi. The 2000 drought caused one of the worst forest fire seasons in years and losses totaled $86 million, and forestry specialists are blaming it on the additional $40 million worth of damage that occurred.
"The Mississippi Forestry Commission is reporting a 50 percent plantation failure in 2000. That totals about $15 million worth of lost seedlings," Forrest said. "Forestry specialists estimate another $10 million in individual trees lost statewide."
The horticulture industry lost about a third of its normal production. About $14 million were lost to plant mortality and increased costs.
Many hay producers only got one good cutting early in the summer. Qualities and quantities were reduced significantly for a $34 million loss in hay production. Short pastures forced most cattle producers to begin feeding hay in the late summer, further jeopardizing supplies for the winter feeding.
Forrest said many cattle producers had to sell early and at lighter weights causing part of the $12.5 million in lost revenues.
"Many producers were forced to liquidate their herds. Fortunately for cattle producers, prices were better for cattle than for other commodities in 2000. However, feed costs increased because hay is in short supply and may have to be replaced with more expensive alternatives," Forrest said.
The drought even hurt the state's catfish industry, where producers lost more than $13 million due to increased pumping costs, decreased water quality, harvesting problems, stress and related diseases, and other production problems. Much of the impact was felt in the eastern part of the state, which relies more on rainfall to maintain water levels in the ponds.
"Most of these crop values were not adjusted to reflect lower prices that might have been received because of drought- related quality issues," Forrest said. "The cattle and forestry numbers do not reflect the impact of the drought on future productivity, which could turn out to be quite large."