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Crop stress mounts, conditions drop -- USDA

Jeff Caldwell 07/09/2012 @ 3:55pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

The shape of the nation's corn crop took another big step lower in the last week, according to Monday's USDA-NASS Crop Progress report.

A week ago, 48% of the crop was in good-to-excellent shape, according to USDA. As of Sunday, though, the damage from continued hot, dry weather is clear, with USDA's tally of the crop in the 2 highest quality categories falling to 40% while the amount of the crop on very poor to poor shape rose by 8%.

Soybean conditions also saw a slide, though not as deep as the one for the corn crop. As of Sunday, 40% of the soybean crop is rated good to excellent versus 45% a week ago. Twenty-seven percent of the bean crop is in very poor to poor shape versus 22% last week.

“The hot dry weather we experienced last week was a real challenge and showed as the condition of both the corn and soybean crop deteriorated,” said Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey on Monday after seeing the numbers. “Less than half of the corn and soybeans are in good to excellent condition now and need more moisture. The high temperatures have also presented challenges for livestock producers as they seek to keep their animals cool.”

And, the damage seen in the last week likely isn't the end of it despite the apparent snap in the heat wave that had temperatures way above normal in parts of the Midwest. Though the mercury's not topping triple-digits in some areas like it was over the weekend, that doesn't mean the crop stress will ease, especially in the absence of rainfall.

"Unfortunately, weather forecasts continue to pitch a 'shutout' for anything but sporadic moisture this week, so we could be looking at further declines next Monday," says Cargill Senior Grain Merchandiser in Eddyville, Iowa, Ray Jenkins. "It’s time to start checking newly pollinated fields and see what is out there."

The deteriorating crop conditions definitely had the market's attention on Monday. July corn ended the day 32 cents higher after touching the 40-cent trading limit earlier in the session, ending the day at $7.75 1/4 per bushel, while July soybeans traded 45 1/4 cents higher to $16.65 and July wheat ended 19 1/2 cents higher at $8.10 3/4. That figure for July soybeans is a record high despite some saying the damage to that crop hasn't reached the irreversible stage.

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