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Crop Progress: Northern Plains Drought Spreading into Corn Belt

USDA ratings of the 18-state corn crop have changed little in the past two weeks. Sixty-one percent of the crop is rated good/excellent, a three-point drop, and 13 percent poor/very poor, a two point increase.

South Dakota’s crop is another story. Thirty-nine percent is poor/very poor, up from 28 percent two weeks ago. The good/excellent rating slipped only 1 point, however, to 29 percent. Farm Credit Services of America (FCSAmerica) crop insurance experts characterize the western part of South Dakota as being “in very tough shape,” while the eastern part of the state is so dry that corn silage will be chopped for some economic gain.

“Producers will want to talk with their crop insurance agent, agronomist and lender when making the decision to chop their corn,” said Tyler Leighton, FCSAmerica crop insurance officer based in Mitchell, South Dakota. “The crop will need to be appraised before they start.”

Producers also a guaranteed market for their silage if they are unable to feed it themselves, Leighton added.

Corn in the other states in FCSAmerica territory also worsened due to the heat, but on a much smaller scale. Below are the USDA ratings for states served by FCSAmerica and Frontier Farm Credit:

CORN Poor/very poor (percent), 7/30 Poor/very poor (percent), 7/18 Good/excellent (percent), 7/30 Good/excellent (percent), 7/18
18 states 13 11 65 64
Iowa 10 6 56 71
Kansas 13 10 61 59
Nebraska 14 12 29 65
South Dakota 39 28 29 30

​Eighty-five percent of the corn crop in the 18 states is silking, right on average, and 23 percent has reached the dough stage, two points behind average.

Soybean progress in the 18 states actually is ahead of average: Blooming, 82 percent vs. 80 percent average; pod setting, 48 vs. 45 average.

Again, South Dakota stands out as a trouble spot:

SOYBEANS Poor/very poor (percent), 7/30 Poor/very poor (percent), 7/18 Good/excellent (percent), 7/30 Good/excellent (percent), 7/18
18 states 13 11 59 61
Iowa 12 10 60 63
Kansas 8 6 51 59
Nebraska 13 12 60 63
South Dakota 35 33 28 29

Pasture and Range

Cows are moving off some of the dried up pastures in the northern Plains. USDA rates South Dakota’s pastures and range 71 percent poor/very poor; North Dakota, 78 percent and Montana 60 percent. Nebraska’s now are 53 percent poor/very poor. Kansas, by comparison, has 9 percent in the low range and 59 percent good/excellent. We could see enough calves move off pasture early to dampen the calf and feeder market and fill feedlots earlier than expected.

Weather prospects

The long-term drought monitor map shows the drought intensifying in the northern Plains and spreading through Nebraska and Iowa.

US Seasonal Drought Outlook 7-25-2017

Map Source:

Meanwhile, the Climate Prediction Center foresees cooler-than-average August temperatures in the Central Plains/Western Corn Belt, providing relief to crops and livestock. It also forecasts equal chances of above or below normal rainfall.

One Month Temp July 31 2017  One Month Precip July 31 2017

Maps Source:


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Jun 26, 2018 |

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Jul 6, 2017 |

Crop Progress: It’s the time of year for worries

The July weather outlook could further support spring wheat prices as harvest approaches.

Oct 17, 2017 |

Crop Update: Late-season Rains Help Some, Hurt Others

Steve Johnson with Iowa State University on the options facing growers in high-moisture areas.

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