Oklahoma's exceptional drought area more than doubles in week, report shows

Thursday's U.S. Drought Monitor reports shows 38.86 percent of the state is experiencing exceptional drought, compared to 16.03 percent the previous week. In all, 100 percent of Oklahoma falls in the severe to exceptional drought categories.
by Bryan Painter Published: August 17, 2012

The worst of the U.S. Drought Monitor categories, exceptional drought, is broadening its hold on Oklahoma.

Thursday's report shows 38.86 percent of the state is experiencing exceptional drought, compared to 16.03 percent the previous week. In all, 100 percent of Oklahoma falls in the severe to exceptional drought categories.

One such experience would be bad, but this year makes two consecutive.

“The second year of drought is challenging,” Oklahoma Agriculture Secretary Jim Reese said. “Producers were certainly looking for some relief. We would love to take advantage of these market prices. Cattle producers sold a lot of cattle last year and for the most part are operating smaller herds to get through this.”

This drought got a later start than that of last year.

The 2010-2011 drought began in September/October 2010 and lasted all winter, spring and summer, Reese said. As a result, there was no grass in the spring so producers were hauling hay and selling livestock almost immediately in 2011.

The drought began more in May/June this year and has been intense over the last 90 days. In the U.S. Drought Monitor report three months ago, 3.54 percent of Oklahoma was in extreme to exceptional drought. Thursday's reports shows 94.59 percent in that category.

Reese said on the positive side those who received some rains into this spring had some grass, and areas had good wheat and canola harvests with good prices. However, the summer crops including soybeans, milo, corn, cotton, and late hay have received the brunt of this drought, he said.

“Additionally, it adds to the cost of livestock production,” he said.

Multiple rains needed

Reese reiterates that producers can't benefit from good prices if they don't have the crops or livestock to sell.

In addition to seeing the effects of the drought in terms of prices in stores, Oklahomans will likely see other effects, Reese said.

He said one out of nine Oklahoma export dollars is a result of an agricultural product.

“Not having that product to export means a loss of market and a loss of new dollars coming to our state,” he said.

Last year's drought, Reese said, was estimated “to have cost us close to 2 billion dollars.”

Some areas have received rains this week, but the deficits were much greater than the gains. And while any precipitation is a start, multiple rainstorms will be needed.

With that in mind, Reese explained, this drought “is still costing all Oklahomans.”

Many concerns

Nathan Anderson, the Oklahoma State University Extension educator in Payne County, said producers are facing the same problems as last year. Reduced and/or no forage and hay supplies and limited pond water are the immediate issues, he said. Thursday's report shows Payne County is among those counties facing exceptional drought.


by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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