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Drought takes economic toll on Texas

A gardener rests his hand on a water pump on April 21, 2011.

Jennifer Collins: Now to the extreme weather that's causing big problems in the nation's midsection. Eleven counties in Mississippi have been declared disaster areas in anticipation of major flooding along the Mississippi River.

Meanwhile in Missouri, where the Army Corps of Engineers is blowing holes in levees to protect towns, the cost of flood damage to farmland could exceed $100 million. And yet just 400 miles away, more than a quarter of Texas is in the middle of a severe drought.

Marketplace's Jennifer Collins reports now on the cost of all this extreme weather.


Jennifer Collins: John Cyrier owns a ranch in the rolling hills outside Austin, Texas. He's already sold off three-quarters of his cattle -- there just hasn't been enough rain to graze them.

John Cyrier: It's just unbelievable to be able to see the extremes. To see some that have too much and then others like us. We just can't get any rain.

Texas State climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon says Texas is having its driest period in 100 years. And it's actually pretty common to have droughts next to floods.

John Nielsen-Gammon: When we have a drought in Texas, it's not like the air is not humid, that humidity just keeps going past us, and ends up producing rain someplace else.

He says every day without rain costs Texas tens of millions of dollars. Mark Svoboda is with the National Drought Mitigation Center.

Mark Svoboda: Drought is the number one cause of economic loss in our country every year.

Svoboda says most Americans just don't realize it.

I'm Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

About the author

Jennifer Collins is a reporter for the Marketplace portfolio of programs. She is based in Los Angeles, where she covers media, retail, the entertainment industry and the West Coast.

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