Climate change responsible for Texas drought
The drought has destroyed almost all the cotton fields, leaving almost nothing left, maybe 20% to save. The drought in parts of the United States has destroyed most of Texas farmer Sutton Page’s crop.
There is a terrible L reality is that of a disaster. In his upstate region, he says by phone, almost all of his colleagues are not even going to harvest their cotton, leaving their entire fields “bare.
The state of Texas produces nearly half of all U.S. cotton, with the U.S. being the world’s third-largest supplier behind India and China. This year, national production will hit its lowest level since 2015, down 21% year-over-year, and Texas will suffer a 58% drop, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In North Texas, where “cotton is king” and water is scarce, the 2022 crop “could be one of the worst in 30 years,” worries Darren Hudson, professor of agricultural economics at Texas Tech University. With the cascading consequences on the rest of the textile industry, he estimated in August the economic losses for the region at USD 2 billion.
The farmer, Landon Orman, 30, works on 2,000 hectares near Abilene, three hours west of Dallas. His non-irrigated cotton has “not even sprouted”, while the partially irrigated cotton has grown but is expected to have half the yield. All in all, he estimates, an 85% drop in production compared to a normal year.
Like other farmers, he has crop insurance, so “financially, it’s fine. But as a farmer, it really pisses us off that we can’t grow our plants, which is what I like,” he informs.
In Lubbock, the local cotton capital, rainfall over the past 12 months – before rains came too late in August – was half the normal amount. “From January to May, we literally had no rain,” summarizes Sutton Page, 48. Minimal rains during the winter and spring left the soil very dry at planting time.
In his remaining 20%, Sutton Page describes “low plants,” small fruit, less cotton. “We’re looking at whether it’s economically feasible to harvest, or whether we should just destroy it.”
“It’s kind of depressing, you work hard all year, you prep your farm, you spread the fertilizer, and your crops don’t grow,” continued the farmer, who is also president of the Rolling Plains Area Cotton Growers Association.
This year’s drought is “one you’ll tell your grandchildren about,” notes Evans. Of his 800 acres of cotton near Lubbock, only the irrigated quarter will be harvested, the rest abandoned.
Farming in these Texas high plains, “you know there are going to be bad years,” Evans maintains, “it’s part of life here.” “You don’t forget 2011,” its drought and very poor harvest, the 60-year-old farmer says.
The one in 2022, which ends later this year, could be even worse. Are they becoming more frequent then? The region is “experiencing worse conditions than last year,” and they are becoming more established over time, notes Curtis Riganti, a climatologist for a research center dedicated to drought. But he is cautious about blaming it on climate change, which is making extreme weather events more frequent and intense worldwide.
“Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen maybe five, six years of drought, and one or two of them were catastrophic,” says Kody Bessent, director of the Lubbock Area Cotton Growers Association.