West KY Drought Potential of 100 Million Dollar Economic Disaster

Ivan Potter

West KY Drought Potential of 100 Million Dollar Economic Disaster

Portions of Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois and Missouri are in extreme drought conditions.


The southernmost part of the Great American Corn Belt is under a major threat, no rain.

Without much more rain than has fallen this week, an estimated $100 million dollars of crop losses will take place in Graves, Hickman, Calloway, Marshall, Ballard, Carlisle and Fulton Counties. Over 100,000 acres are under cultivation in corn in the seven counties.

Tommy Roberts, a crop insurer in Hickman County estimated that there are 40,000 acres of corn planted in Hickman County.

“Without a lot more of rain within the next two to three weeks, we are looking at upwards of over $40,000,000 of economic loss from this corn crop.” Roberts stated.

A similar sDry furrows at edge of the corn cropituation exists in Graves County. Kenny Perry, University of Kentucky Extension Service, recently made a public statement on the impact of a very severe drought.

“Without rain, yields will fall with prolonged dry conditions. In Graves County alone, corn brings over forty million dollars to the local economy during a year of average rainfall.”

Local experts believed that another $20 to 30 million of corn crop loss could occur in the remaining agriculture acreage of the Jackson Purchase.

During this same period in 2011, massive flooding was taking place from over 37 inches of rainfall from January 1 through May. Much of this rainfall came in early spring months and created flooding along regional rivers.

Normal rainfall is about 20 inches from January through May. So far in 2012, the region has received about 11 inches, a 45% drop from average.

After the destructive March, April, and May flooding of 2011 came the incredible heat waves of July, August, and September. Weeks of temperatures over 95 degrees baked houses, people, and fields.

This heat attack of 2011 also witnessed a new factor in local weather concerns, heat indexes of 115 to 120 degrees. At this level of heat, old air conditioning systems fail. Those vulnerable to excessive heat, like seniors faced health stresses. Overheated crops died in the fields.

The rain pattern for drought is different this year.

In 2011, the governor of Missouri declared a state of emergency as all counties in the state experienced a severe drought. In 2012, this belt of extreme heat and drought conditions has moved into West Kentucky. On Friday, June 1, 2012, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, issued a Declaration of Emergency for Extreme Drought in 24 counties.  

No one can predict just how long this shortage of rain water will grip the region. Or what the final cost will be.