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Drought creeping into Corn Belt harvest

Harvest progress this past week (19 percent done nationally) was more than I expected, particularly in the far northwestern Corn Belt and the northern Plains where we saw a big amount of soybeans get cut in Minnesota (nearly one third of their soybean crop was combined last week) and the Dakotas (28 percent of the crop in South Dakota and 38 percent of the crop in North Dakota was cut just last week).

Corn harvest progress last week was more to my expectations (21 percent done nationally) and is slowing down relative to soybeans as farmers start to concentrate more on getting the soybean crop out of the field. Look for this to be a huge week for soybean harvesting in the Midwest as all areas are dry through Friday and any rain for the weekend is just in western areas and even there might not be enough to shut down harvesting operations completely.

I think that we may cut as much as third of the Nation's soybean crop just this week, which would put the national harvest pace ahead of the five-year average for next Monday's numbers. With rainfall not looking overly impressive in the Midwest next week either, I think it is quite likely that the lion's share of the 2011 soybean harvest will be wrapped up by the middle of this month.

That dryness is great for getting the harvest completed in a timely fashion, but one has to admit that, barring a major change in the weather pattern later this fall, we are going to be going into winter with some increasingly serious drought conditions in especially the western Midwest.

It is easy to find places especially along and west of Interstate 35 that have recorded under 15 percent of normal rainfall over the past 30 days, and under half of normal rainfall for the past 90 days. Speaking of drought, in the near term there is still very good model agreement that short-term drought relief is going to be seen for a very large part of the hard-red winter wheat areas of the southern Plains. By next Monday morning, a very large part of that area should have seen over an inch of rain with some spots seeing upwards of three inches.

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