Wildfires cost Texas agriculture nearly $200 million

Wildfires cost Texas agriculture nearly $200 million

19 September 2011

published by www.star-telegram.com

USA — Agricultural losses from wildfires in Texas this year are approaching $200 million, increasing the toll for the state’s worst year of drought and fires, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service at Texas A&M University said Monday.

The service reported that losses topped $150 million but updated that figure later in the day after new data on timber losses came in, said Andy Vestal, a specialist with the service. Timber losses, earlier estimated at $48.1 million, were increased to $97 million.

The weekend rains were welcome, “but we’re so far behind,” Vestal said. “And without a change in the local weather pattern, they’re still projecting a very dry, ongoing winter. That doesn’t look too prosperous for any of us.”

Extension economist David Anderson’s estimates include destroyed fences and agricultural buildings, the lost value of grazing, lost livestock and the stumpage value of destroyed timber.

They cover 2.9 million acres, 198 structures, 21 pieces of equipment, 1,133 head of cattle, 142 calves, 19 sheep, 20 horses, 210 goats and 5,965 miles of fence.

Beyond timber, lost grazing is the second-largest category of loss.

The figures don’t include the broader, nonagricultural losses from wildfires, nor do they include agricultural losses from drought, which are estimated at more than $5 billion.

Vestal said actual losses to date from wildfires may be greater than $200 million, because information continues to trickle in.

Texas acreage blackened by wildfires may lose value by as much as 50 to 60 percent, and “a full recovery could take years,” Lewis Realty Advisers, a Texas real estate appraisal and consulting firm, said Monday.

Property studded with pine trees can be restored within 10 years, but land with slower-growing oaks may not be fully replenished for more than 20 years, said Kim Kobriger, the firm’s managing partner.

“The wildfires have destroyed the trees and the intrinsic value of large swaths of Texas landscape,” Kobringer said in a statement. “Pasture land that supported livestock will bounce back quickly after significant rainfall. But timberland and property used for suburban residences may not recover for a decade.”

The Stockyards Championship Rodeo in Fort Worth said Monday that it’s teaming up with Russell Feed to launch a hay drive to benefit the nonprofit Ranch Hand Rescue organization and abandoned or neglected ranch animals.

A portion of ticket proceeds from Friday night’s rodeo will benefit Ranch Hand Rescue, and volunteers will be passing a bucket through the audience seeking cash donations. The rodeo, in the Cowtown Coliseum, 121 E. Exchange Ave., will also take hay donations all day Friday, said Nate Krieger, the rodeo’s marketing director.

Additionally, Russell Feed stores are accepting donations for the next week.

The drought has decimated the state’s hay crop and has forced animal owners to truck hay into Texas from states such as Indiana, Missouri, Kansas and New Mexico. Hay prices have skyrocketed this year, and the idea for a hay drive came from a fan on the rodeo’s Facebook page, Krieger said.

“This will be the first of many” hay drives the rodeo will sponsor, Krieger said.

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