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Rain eases drought, cause for worry also

Recent rains are mixed blessing for farmers and cattle ranchers

June 10, 2013

Recent torrential rains this spring have brought an end to one of the worst droughts in this nation’s history. Much of the mid west farm belt has been flooded causing drowned corn and soybean plants, stunting their growth or prevented them from being planted in the first place.

Farmers face fields that were dusty and dry until, suddenly, they’re muddy and saturated. The situation brings an all-too-familiar fear- that their crops will not make it for a second growing season in a row.

“This is the worst spring I can remember in my 30 years farming,” said Rob Korff, who plants 3,500 acres of corn and soybeans here in northwestern Missouri. “Just continuous rain, not having an opportunity to plant. It can still be a decent crop, but as far as a good crop or a great crop, that’s not going to happen.

Still, last year’s poor production had only a minor effect on food prices, analysts say, and even with the early planting problems, they expect better yields this year.

Just over 44 percent of the country remains in drought, down more than 9 percentage points from the beginning of March.

The Great Plains, Midwest, and northern interior portions of the West, as well as the eastern half of Montana and northern Wyoming have received rain to help ease drought conditions.

To produce weekly drought maps, experts consider what’s normal and then consult observations of parameters such as rain, snow, temperature, soil moisture, and stream flow. They also consider reports of drought impacts such as decreased availability of water or stressed condition for crops, livestock and wildlife.

On May 12, 28 percent of the nation’s corn crop had been planted, compared with 85 percent on the same day last year. As of the United States Department of Agriculture’s latest report released last week, 91 percent of corn had been planted by June 2, compared with 100 percent a year earlier.

The rain has benefited some farm operations, however.

Recent storms have replenished pasture grass that cattle eat, and filled ponds and streams where they drink. Refreshed pastures should also mean copious amounts of hay to feed cattle.

Cattle farmers are wary, thought, since despite good pastures now, drought could be only a few weeks away.

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