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CME: Drought Monitor Shows Few Trouble Spots Across US

19 July 2019

US - While crop conditions remain a concern, one of the key figures in the crop progress for cattle producers is pasture and range conditions, writes Steiner Consulting Group, DLR Division, Inc.

Grass conditions have registered excellent this year and for areas such as the Southern Plains, this is a substantial improvement from recent years when drought was the topic of conversation.

The current drought monitor shows few trouble spots across the country. For the continental US, 89 percent of the area has a rating of zero drought conditions. This is a stark improvement to last year when only 51 percent of the country was reporting non-drought conditions. There are some dry problem areas creeping in from Canada in the Northern Plains and Pacific Northwest, but overall this picture is seen as a positive when compared to last year.

Translating the lack of dry conditions and factoring in too much moisture the US, pasture and range conditions that are released weekly by USDA-NASS in the Crop Progress report show that only 8 percent of the US is reporting poor or very poor conditions. Trouble spots related to lack of moisture in the Pacific Northwest are registering state level conditions as much higher. More than 15 percent of pasture and range conditions are rating poor and very poor this week in Washington and Oregon. North Dakota is showing 7 percent.

Something we don’t often talk about is deteriorating conditions because of too much moisture. The Eastern Corn Belt has been hammered with precipitation and has struggled with excessive moisture in crop fields as well as pastures. Individual state level data shows Ohio pasture and range conditions that are poor and very poor are at 20 percent, although the region on aggregate remains favorable. Only 10 percent of the Corn Belt is showing poor and very poor pasture conditions at this time, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

One of the most dramatic changes this year has been in the Southern Plains (Oklahoma and Texas). Last year at this time, nearly 30 percent of pastures required supplemental feeding. This year about 5 percent are ranked in the same condition. This is one of the best pasture and range conditions seen in this region for the beginning of July since 2007 and nearly 10 percentage points better than the five year average (see graphic below).

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