Aug. 23 — Yesterday I saw a cloud. It was big, dark and threatening, packing some pretty stiff winds. I ran outside and mowed my front yard while the breeze kicked the temperatures to slightly below the century mark. I lasted 20 minutes, reserved the back yard for later today, took a cool shower and sat inside in air-conditioned comfort the rest of the evening.

The cloud produced nothing, nada, not a drop of rain.

East Texas has been particularly hard hit by this drought that has lingered for more than a year.

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns recently declared five Texas counties (Fannin, Hopkins, Hunt, Jeff Davis and Lavaca) as primary natural disaster areas. He listed others, including Kaufman County, Van Zandt County, and Wood County, as contiguous disaster counties. Others likely will add to the list as this drought hangs on.

Fortunately, some of the region has received much-needed rain over the past few days. Amarillo and El Paso suffered flooding following downpours. Oklahoma cotton fields have benefited from some late summer showers and the High Plains of Texas has gotten as much as two inches of rain.

“It’s too late to do dryland cotton any good,” says Shawn Wade, media director for Plains Cotton Growers Inc., at Lubbock. “But it may allow some irrigated farmers to shut off their systems for a day or two.”

Running those center pivots this summer may produce decent yields but farmers say it will be one of the most expensive crops they’ve ever made. Several told me recently that diesel prices are as much as triple what they were paying about ten years ago. They say fertilizer prices are even higher, up as much as 400 percent since 1996.

Cotton, corn, peanut, grain sorghum and wheat markets haven’t enjoyed similar gains, so the economic pinch is painful.

The weather report last evening indicated a 20 percent chance of rain for the Denton, Texas, area today. Cynical journalist that I am, I assume that means we have an 80 percent chance that it will not rain, again.

e-mail: rsmith@farmpress.com