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Corn Planting Sags; Wheat Worries Mount

Corn planting is underway in the U.S. That's the good news. The bad news is as of mid-April, the pace remains painfully slow in most of the country, a veritable rerun of the start to planting season in 2013.

While planting is actually ahead of the normal pace in Texas, it's way behind in the rest of the primary corn-growing regions of the country; as of Sunday, 3% of the nation's crop is in the ground, half the normal pace for this week. Farmers in Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio haven't even started, according to Monday's USDA-NASS Crop Progress report, while those in Illinois and Nebraska have tallied just 1% of the crop planted.

Though a weekend of rain -- and snow in some spots -- has delayed any fieldwork or planting activities in the Corn Belt, that's not necessarily that bad of a thing, farmers say. The soils in many spots are still on the dry side, so the moisture's been welcome.

"We pulled the planter out of the barn on Saturday to ensure it would rain. It worked: 3.75 inches and a dusting of snow," says Marketing Talk senior contributor tree fmr, who farms in Poweshiek County in east-central Iowa. "The soil temperature at 4 inches was 40°F. on Saturday afternoon. A few neighbors were planting; time will tell how that works."

Adds Marketing Talk senior contributor Wind: "The rain (snow) event that just took place was a gift from above. Very welcome, at least here in central Iowa. Filling the moisture profile far outweighs any delay in planting that came with the rain. I would say that farmers' corn will be OK . . . 2.29 inches total west of Des Moines. I'm going to check soon to see if some of the swallow tiles are running."

While the weekend and early-week moisture -- in whatever form it fell -- was a welcome sight in the Midwest, it worsened an already-dire situation in parts of the Plains, where the hard red winter wheat crop has already been suffering from dryness. Now, cold temperatures -- some dipping into the 20s, near the threshold for winterkill damage -- are adding insult to injury for the wheat crop. Monday's USDA report shows 34% of the winter wheat crop in good or excellent condition, just a 1% slip from the previous week. Wheat in the very poor or poor category grew by 3%.

"We're forecast to be in low 20s here tonight," Marketing Talk veteran adviser Shaggy98, who farms in central Kansas, said on Monday. "At this point, I'm not sure if a rain would salvage any wheat, but the row crops and oats would greatly benefit from it."

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