(Posted Tue. Sep 20th, 2011)

Off The CobThis piece is an installment of series launched this spring featuring interviews with executives from organizations representing corn growers at the state level on the specific issues affecting their growers.


Sept. 20: Today, Off the Cob speaks with Texas Corn Producers Board Executive Director David Gibson about the devastating drought that has severely impacted corn growers across his state this growing season. As water pumping restrictions on the high plains continue to decrease farmers’ ability to irrigate, Gibson looks at how a lack of water will impact corn production and necessitate the import of feed grains from out-of-state in order to supply the thriving livestock industry.


Even in a summer plagued by record heat waves, hurricanes and flooding, the severe drought conditions in Texas have grabbed media headlines repeatedly. Now, agricultural economists forecast that agriculture as a whole in the state will lose a record $5.2 billion in 2011.


“Currently, and all summer, we have experienced the worst drought that has been recorded across all sections of the state,” said Gibson. “We have now reached D4 drought levels, meaning there is hardly any portion of Texas where the drought is not considered very severe. This has impacted our corn growers as we are now looking at a 40 to 45 percent reduction in the size of our total crop from what we would normally expect in a year.


This includes our irrigated acres and dry land acres. So, this is going to be devastating in respect to cash flow and income for a lot of our growers.” This economic impact is only compounded in the panhandle portion of the state as water pumping restrictions, which have been in effect in the northern most tear of counties for four years.


“In 2011, the restrictions allow for the pumping of 1.75 feet of water per acre,” said Gibson. “In 2012, the northernmost area will decrease to an allowance of 1.5 feet per acre, and the southern counties in the area will go to a 21 inch per acre allotment.”


These restrictions have will have a concrete impact for both growers in that region and for the overall agricultural economy of Texas.


“This will present real issues considering how dry the soil is at this time,” he said. “We are probably looking at the restrictions limiting the number of corn acres grown in the irrigated areas of the state as early as 2012.”


Given the financial difficulties caused by the drought and the impact of water pumping restrictions in irrigated areas, Gibson forecasts corn production will fall.


“The area impacted by water pumping restrictions normally grows about 800,000 acres of corn,” he said. “I expect that, in the near future, this will fall to around 500,000 acres. As the affected region regularly produces average yields of between 200 and 240 bushel per acre, the effects of a 300,000 acre decrease in corn plantings would be significant.”


Notably, there is also a concentration of feedlot and dairy operations in northern Texas.


“Decreased production will impact corn growers nationally as the amount of corn brought into our state to supply the feedlots and dairy industry,” said Gibson. “Texas already imports two to three times what we grow in a normal year to meet their demand. So, we also expect increased stress on the railroads and transportation systems as the need to ship in corn from other areas of the country will inevitably grow.”


To listen, please click here.