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Drought Report Points To Commodity Losses Due To Water Shortages

Rick Bowmer
The grain silos at the EGT grain export terminal are shown at the Port of Longview Monday, July 9, 2012, in Longview, Wash.

The state Department of Agriculture says last year’s drought will cost farmers and ranchers dearly. The initial assessment of losses to the industry due to water shortages for 2015 is $336 million.

The agency has issued a report that will be updated exactly one year from its initial release date, which was on the last day of 2015. 

The report takes a look at the top commodities produced in the state, including wheat, apples and berries. Those are just a handful of more than 300 cash crops that generate revenue for the state. 

Hector Castro, a spokesman with the state Department of Agriculture, says it confirms what a lot of people already knew.

“But even this early look demonstrates that there were hundreds of millions of dollars of economic harm,” he said, adding that a more complete picture will become available at the end of the year as more data trickles in.    

The report looks at losses to water-intensive commodities – including hay, apples  and blueberries – as well as dryland crops, such as wheat.

Cherries and pears were also areas of concern, but the data is still largely missing for those commodities.

And in a rare move, the department has agreed –in cooperation with the state Department of Ecology– to update the report on Dec 31, 2016 —exactly a year after its initial release.

Key items that are not in the report yet are potatoes as well as the livestock industry and horticulture.

"So there are other large agriculture industries that we haven’t even looked at yet, simply because there was no data available yet," Castro said.

The data they did have came in through online surveys, meetings, phone calls and field visits.

Forecasters are not certain which way the weather scales will tip for drought this year…if it’s a  laNiña, that could help keep snow in the mountains which becomes available later, as it melts.

So while the drought is officially over, its effects on the agricultural community are still being hashed out.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to