Farming News - Rain forecast to ease parched American Midwest

Rain forecast to ease parched American Midwest

17 Aug 2012
Frontdesk / Arable / Machinery

Revised forecasts in the United States show the country’s drought-stricken regions have a better chance of rain than had previously been indicated. Although the United states’ wheat crop is in healthy condition after having been revised up by the US Department of Agriculture this week, maize and soy, the country’s major agricultural exports, are suffering under the worst drought in over fifty years.  


Over the past few days conditions have improved slightly from July’s dry weather and baking heat; light rains and cooler temperatures have helped to palliate all but the worst affected regions. However, rainfall has been too late and too scant to improve the condition of maize and soy crops, both of which had been continuously downgraded until this week, sparking market rallies and leading to spiralling grain prices, which the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has warned will hinder access to food and may start another food crisis.


On Monday, maize condition held steady and soy improved slightly, according to the USDA.


Furthermore, meteorologists from World Weather and Commodity Weather Group suggested on Thursday that rainfall in the next week will be double the amount initially forecast. The Midwest can now expect between 20 and 40mm of rain, with much more in some localities.  


Drought conditions have already started to ease in a number of the USA’s contiguous states; climatologists this week revealed the land area of the United States under drought had fallen by almost one per cent since last week. However, the US Drought Monitor showed on Thursday that no significant relief is in sight and the drought’s effects on livestock and arable farming appear mostly irreversible, though some late planted soybeans may benefit slightly from next week’s conditions.


The effects of drought have caused a rupture between farming advocates and environmentalists in the United States. As drought conditions reached their apex at the beginning of the month, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called for closed land, including wetland habitat and other sensitive areas under conservation management to be opened up for livestock grazing. The move caused uproar amongst conservationists.


Despite this week’s respite and the promise of slightly more favourable conditions on the horizon, USDA figures show the United States’ maize and soy crops are at their most feeble since the last severe drought year of 1988.


Drought in Russia and India, where a weak monsoon has affected agricultural regions in the North and West, have also contributed to concern over the availability and affordability of a range of staple grains this year. Yesterday, in spite of increased production in the United States, USDA said further rises could be expected in wheat prices, which already reach all-time highs last week.