The extremely dry and hot weather patterns are caused by a La Nina effect, which is an abnormal cooling of Pacific waters that prevents moisture from reaching the southern portion of the United States. “The four months following Thanksgiving were the driest in Oklahoma since 1921, and Texas has experienced a similar record dry spell,” Aljoe said. “There has been very little precipitation in the region since September of 2010, and weather projections say that the trend of warm weather and little rainfall is expected to continue for the next three months. This will extend an already devastating drought. We are encouraging agricultural producers to take action now.”

As a result of the prolonged drought, producers have experienced dramatic yield reductions. Aljoe said most crops have produced only about 25 percent of the total yield compared to last year, with some farmers having experienced almost complete crop losses as in the case of wheat.

For livestock producers, the drought has been particularly distressing. Drought conditions have reduced or eliminated vital water resources and destroyed forages vital for grazing. Texas and Oklahoma combine to produce more than 20 percent of the beef cattle in the United States. However, without forages for summer grazing or a supply of hay for this winter, many are being forced to destock.

“Usually producers feed beef cattle with hay for about 80 to 90 days during the winter months,” Cook explained. “Because pasture land is virtually unusable, they will end up feeding more than 200 days on hay this fall and winter. However, hay is scarce and expensive, and many producers are selling their cattle early. With more and more destocking occurring in Texas and Oklahoma, the market will remain flooded and prices will continue to be depressed.”

A recent New York Timesarticle estimated that damages from the drought will reach into the billions of dollars (more than $3 billion in Texas alone) with the full impact of crop and livestock losses to the agricultural industry not fully realized for many years to come.

“Agricultural producers face tremendous challenges every year,” Cook said. “Every time, the determination and ingenuity of farmers and ranchers across this country has found a way to fight back and feed not only this country, but the world. The Noble Foundation is here to offer our assistance to these dedicated individuals. We are providing and will continue to provide producers the tools to handle this drought and prepare for the years that follow.”

The Noble Foundation’s upcoming issue of Ag News and Views will also be dedicated to drought management. To receive a free copy of the special drought issue, please contact Tracy Cumbie at (580)224-6411.