Monday, May 23, 2011

Farm States Continue to Suffer From Expanded Drought

USAgNet reports today a dire drought that has plagued Texas and parts of Oklahoma expanded across the key farming state of Kansas over the last week, adding to struggles of wheat farmers already dealing with weather-ravaged fields.

Harvest in Kansas, the top U.S. wheat-growing state, is set to begin within weeks. But a report issued Thursday by a consortium of climatologists said the three most severe levels of drought spread across the state over the last week, with the most dire conditions concentrated in the key wheat-growing south-central and southwest parts.

According to Reuters, Kansas now has 50 percent of the state suffering severe levels of drought or worse, up from 41 percent last week. The Drought Monitor shows that just three months ago, less than 4 percent of Kansas was suffering severe drought or worse. The drought is eroding production potential at a time when every bushel counts.

Meanwhile, wheat harvest is underway and production is expected to be curtailed substantially because of the drought.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on May 11 forecast that Kansas would harvest 261.8 million bushels of wheat this summer, down from 27 percent from a year ago. The Texas and Oklahoma wheat crops are forecast to fall more than 50 percent because of the drought, causing the overall U.S. winter wheat crop to be estimated as the smallest in five years.

Severe drought stress can be easily seen in many Kansas fields, which typically produce hard red winter wheat, the chief bread-making type.

Wheat futures prices have surged because of the production shortfalls. Chicago Board of Trade wheat futures have jumped nearly 20 percent over the last week and hit a three-month high this week on worries the drought will harm the U.S. wheat crop.

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