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Drought Not Over Yet

Extended Drought Pushes Corn Prices To Record Highs
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

With the farm belt’s soil recharged by melted snow and spring rains, farmers are anxious to start working the fields and planting seed for the 2013 crop season. However April’s week two, winter like storm  has slowed plans for fieldwork.

Above-average snow cover and a chilly, wet spring have helped restore moisture to our area burdened by last year’s drought. But the missing component is deep moisture, which farmers will need if the rain stops again.

Early estimates by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show farmers plan to plant 174.4 million acres in corn and soybeans this year, a record amount. In much of the farm belt, there’s enough topsoil moisture to allow plants to emerge.

‘The issue is now that we’ve got some good moisture in the top part of the soil, how is that getting into the subsoil, which is very important for corn because corn does go down deep and tap into a deep moisture source,’ said Mike Hayes, director of the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska.

A USDA report has predicted the season average of corn will run $6.65 to $7.15 per bushel, so it likely could be a banner year for the crop. In the USDA spring-planting survey, farmers indicated plans to plant 97 million acres in corn, the most since 1936, when 102 million acres were planted.

The next question is when do farmers plant?

Once again farming could play a very important role in the country’s economy. An easing of the drought and a near record planting season for corn should help temper inflation in the U.S. since corn is used in everything from ethanol to sweeteners to livestock feed.

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