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U.S. drought melting away

Ray Grabanski 03/19/2013 @ 8:19am President, Progressive Ag www.progressiveag.com

Since about mid-January, the US drought in the western corn belt has been melting away with above normal precip for this region and normal to below normal temps.  Particularly being affected are the northern states of ND, SD, IA, MN, and parts of NE that have received above normal precip during the typically lowest precip months of the year - January and February and into March.  

However, the weather pattern might be more important in this development, as the pattern has turned wetter and cooler for the north western corn belt, and that change in weather pattern, if it persists, could result in a continued melting away of the drought in this area.  

Recall that the same weather pattern change last fall has already melted away the drought in the central and eastern corn belt such that now they have saturated soils across ILL, IND, and OH and points surrounding this area.  There are virtually no lingering impacts of last summers devastating drought on the points east of the Mississippi River, and that is a big story for the US as we move into the spring planting season.  

As we move into April and typically a wetter month for the year, the chance of precip continues to be above normal, with the next 7 days and 8-14 days forecast to bring above normal precip to the still drought impacted states of SD, IA, MN, and NE as well as ND. These areas will continue to see the drought melted away from the drought monitor, and that means that yield prospects are returning to closer to normal for this area.  

In fact, perhaps a greater concern this spring is arising besides drought in the western corn belt. The eastern corn belt might see planting delays due to cool and wet weather that has saturated soils and could potentially cause planting delays in this area. Yes, 2013 is indeed a new year, and one in which the lingering impacts of drought could be quickly forgotten, and other problems could become more prevalent.  

However, for the western corn belt and HRW wheat area, the concerns are still drought.  But even that is melting away under the recent cooler/wetter conditions for this area, and we may quickly be seeing planting delays in the eastern and central corn belt dominating discussions among market watchers. This could be especially true if the drier western corn belt gets in the field and quickly gets planted while the eastern corn belt awaits drying of wet soils before they can get into the fields.  

Yes, indeed, 2013 is a new year with new potential problems. It might be surprising once the growing season gets under way how quickly the devastating 50 year drought of 2012 will be forgotten. And how quickly the market's attention might turn to other problems for the US.

While many of the market's watchers are questioning the USDA's projection of 'trend' yields in corn and soybeans (and some are even projecting corn yields in the 150s), perhaps trend yields or better are a better possibility than we imagined just last fall, when the effects of the devastating 2012 drought were still upon us. But how quickly the drought has melted away in the central and eastern corn belt since last fall.  

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