$400 million agricultural loss from April

Tuesday, July 10, 2007 | 2:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:21 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

While the search for summer peaches was expected to be difficult after a crippling April freeze, the economic effects are just now coming into focus.

Pat Guinan, a state climatologist with the University of Missouri Extension Service, estimated the freeze caused at least $400 million in losses to the state's agricultural sector.

The assessment was a collaborative effort of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, regional and state climate offices, the Climate Prediction Center and the National Weather Service.

"They want to see the magnitude of the freeze event and the effects it had on horticulture and agriculture," Guinan said. "I volunteered to do the one for Missouri."

Here's how the $400 million estimate breaks down: $25 million for fruit and nut crops; $300 million for forage crops; $61 million to $74.7 million for winter wheat; $1.35 million for two large nurseries in Missouri; and $6 million to $7.5 million for replanted corn.

While Guinan does not have breakdowns for each county, he said every county in Missouri was affected.

Gene Danekas, director of the U.S. Department

Department of Agriculture Missouri Agriculture Statistics Service, said the planted acreage of winter wheat last year was 1,050,000, but as of June 29, only 850,000 acres were harvested this year. About 100,000 acres of winter wheat grown for hay or ground cover aren't harvested most years. An additional 100,000 acres is not being harvested this year because it was damaged by the freeze.

Part of what made the freeze so damaging was that it followed two weeks of unseasonably warm weather that caused vegetation to grow.

The two-week period from March 21 through April 3 was the warmest for those 14 days in 118 years, Guinan said.

Then an arctic cold front swept in, and the next six days were the coldest Guinan can find in records that go back 118 years.

"So in three weeks, we go from a very unusual mild period to an unprecedented cold period,” he said.

A survey of the records also found that only one other freeze, on Armistice Day in 1940, even came close to the Easter freeze of 2007 for its devastation. No spring freeze exceeded the devastation and losses reported in April.

Guinan said there have been four “major climate events” in Missouri this spring, including the heavy rains and flooding of June and July, the freeze in April, the “historic” ice storm in January and major flooding along the Missouri River in May.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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