Texas Drought Takes Toll on Farmers

It's been a tough summer in the Lone Star State. In Austin, nearly every day this month has seen triple-digit temperatures.

But the damage is really being done outside the cities, with a drought that could mean near-record losses for people who make their living off the land, as CBS News correspondent Don Teague reports.

On a 15,000-acre ranch in central Texas, Clint Buckland has to sell 600 cows because he can't feed them.

"Looks like we've got grass but it's dead and dry," Buckland said.

The problem? The most severe drought this part of Texas has ever seen means grazing pastures have dried up.

Throughout central Texas, lake levels have fallen as much as 30 feet below normal, fields are cracking, and in some places half the cotton, corn and sorghum crops have withered away. Texas officials estimate losses are already at $3.6 billion and rising.

Texas A&M livestock expert David Anderson says Texas cattle ranchers alone have suffered nearly $1 billion in losses this year.

"The effects of drought are long lasting. When we don't get pasture growth this year it affects the cows' nutrition, it affects their ability to conceive and have calves next year," Anderson said.

Over the past two months, Austin has sweltered through 19 days above 100 degree. And rainfall is 20 inches below normal.

"I don't know how many days of 100 degree heat we've add, but with little or no rainfall it's been a one-two punch," said farmer Curt Mowery.

Farmers and cattle ranchers are the not the only ones suffering form the drought. All across the bone-dry region, people are affected - suffering in some ways you might not expect.

Snakes are on the move, looking for shade and water, but running into humans. Snake bites are above normal this year near Austin and San Antonio. There are burn bans in most Texas counties. And near Austin, for the first time in 30 years a floating restaurant has had to close its doors.

Back at the Circle X-Ranch, Clint Buckland is also hoping the weather changes soon and wondering how many more cattle he'll have to sell before the rains return.
  • Don Teague

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