Drought Impacts on Agriculture
The agricultural sector is an important contributor to the economy of the United States in many ways, from promoting food and energy security to providing jobs in rural communities. In 2015, farms contributed $136.7 billion to the U.S. economy and accounted for 2.6 million jobs, with about half of farm revenue coming from livestock production. Other agriculture- and food-related sectors contributed an additional $855 billion and accounted for 21 million full- and part-time jobs.
Drought ranks third among environmental phenomena associated with billion-dollar weather disasters since 1980, behind tropical cyclones and severe storms. The cost of drought events averages over $9 billion per year, with an annual cost of over $6 billion, making it a serious hazard with substantial socioeconomic consequences.
Sustained drought has considerable negative effects on crops and livestock, including the reduced production, destruction of property, and livestock sell-offs.
For example, in 2012, severe drought impacted 80 percent of agricultural land in the United States, causing more than two-thirds of its counties to be declared disaster areas. The drought affected the production of livestock and field crops such as wheat, corn, and soybean production in the Great Plains and Midwest and accounted for $14.5 billion in loss payments by the federal crop insurance program. In 2015, drought impacts to California’s agricultural sector resulted in $1.84 billion in direct costs, a loss of 10,100 seasonal jobs, and surface water shortages of 8.7 million acre-feet.
NIDIS partners with the USDA Climate Hubs across the nation to support agricultural producers and ranchers with early information of drought onset and intensification; assessing the impacts of drought on the sector and the economy; and training and raising awareness among farmers and ranchers of how drought is depicted in the U.S. Drought Monitor, which determines federal assistance for producers.