Drought may cost billions - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Drought may cost billions

The lack of rain in Mississippi has affected everything from hay to corn to soybeans to cotton.

Drought has arrived in a state where agriculture production adds about $5 billion annually to the economy.

Besides lost yields, the dry weather means greater chances for wildfires, structural problems to roadways, reduced lake depths and increased water usage. Parts of the state also are under burn bans.

Rainfall has been below normal throughout the state this year.

This weekend, the state will have a better chance for rain than it has had in several weeks, but the National Weather Service is not forecasting more than a 50 percent likelihood for showers.

Almost $2 billion of the state's agriculture industry is at risk because of the weather. That's according to John Anderson, professor of agricultural economics at Mississippi State University.

Anderson says in some areas of the state conditions are so dry that farmers may not make a profit from their operations this year.

So far this year, Jones County is the driest in the area, with almost 15 inches short of normal.

"No grass and no pastures worth anything and it's just lowering the milk production considerably and it's costing a lot more to produce the milk what little he does get."

James Cheeks is describing how the drought has affected his son's dairy farm.  Cheeks says this year has been really hard on farmers because they're still recovering from previous years of very little rain.

Cheeks says the drought is costing his son thousands of dollars.

Jones County is dealing with the worst rain deficit for the past two years: 23 inches short of what is considered normal for the area. Marion comes in second with 22 inches, and Forrest and Lamar counties with 19 inches.

Cheeks says his son is using alternative options now.

"What hay we had in the spring he's feeding it now, so unless we get some rain to replace that I don't what they'll do this winter."

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