U.S. Winter Wheat Withers to 1985 Lows as Drought Persists

U.S. Winter-Wheat Crop Worsening as Dry Weather Curtails GrowthThe most Severe and Extensive Drought in at least 25 years is seriously affecting U.S. agriculture, with impacts on the crop and livestock sectors and with the potential to affect food prices at the retail level. Crop conditions for Winter Wheat in the U.S. declined for the fourth straight week and were the worst since 1985, the government said, as dry, cold weather slowed seed germination and early plant growth. An estimated 33 percent of the crop was rated good or excellent as of yesterday, down from 34 percent last week and 52 percent a year earlier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today in a report. About 26 percent was in poor or very poor condition, compared with 13 percent a year earlier.The worst U.S. drought since 1956 helped send wheat futures up 32 percent this year.

About 56 percent of the six High Plains states from Kansas to North Dakota was in extreme or exceptional drought as of Nov. 20, up from 6.3 percent a year earlier, government data show. Plant emergence was 88 complete in the 18 top-producing states, compared with 91 percent a year earlier, the USDA said. “The crop is already dying in some fields from the lack of rain,” Alan Brugler, the president of Brugler Marketing & Management Inc. in Omaha, Nebraska, said in a telephone interview before the report. “Crops survived the dry weather last year because there were surplus soil-moisture reserves. The crop is more susceptible to wind and cold damage this year because of the poor conditions.”

Dry, warm weather is expected over the next 10 days, which will slow root development before plants go dormant for the winter, according to T-Storm Weather LLC in Chicago. About 46 percent of the wheat crop from Texas to Montana received less than half the average rain during the last 90 days, the forecaster said. Winter wheat is the most-common variety in the U.S., accounting for about 72 percent of all wheat harvested. The plants go dormant during the coldest months of the year and resume growing in March. The drought conditions already cut output of the nation’s two biggest crops, corn and soybeans, sending prices to record highs earlier this year. On Jan. 11, the USDA is scheduled to release its first estimate of the 2012-2013 acreage seeded with winter wheat.

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world-food-price-rise(Oct 5, 2012) World food prices rose in September and are moving nearer to levels reached during the 2008 food crisis.The United Nations food agency reported on Thursday that the worst drought in more than 50 years in the United States had sent corn and soybean prices to record highs over the summer, and, coupled with drought in Russia and other Black Sea exporting countries, raised fears of a renewed crisis.The Food and Agriculture Organisation‘s (FAO) price index, which measures monthly price changes for a food basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, rose 1.4% in September, mainly due to higher dairy and meat prices.”It’s highly unlikely we will see a normalisation of prices anytime soon,” said FAO senior economist Abdolreza Abbassian.Parmjit Singh, head of the food and drink sector at London law company Eversheds, said higher prices would place further pressure on squeezed international food supply chains.”Manufacturers and producers will naturally want to pass on increased costs to their clients but they will meet with stiff resistance from retailers who are reluctant to increase checkout prices for increasingly value-conscious customers,” Singh said.FAO’s index is below a peak reached in February 2011, when high food prices helped drive the Arab spring uprisings in the Middle East and north Africa, but current levels are very close to those seen in 2008, which sparked riots in poor countries.

2012 hottest year on record, federal agency says

2012 hottest year on record, federal agency saysSept 18, 2012) The first eight months of 2012 were the hottest ever recorded in the continental United States and the summer period of June, July and August was the third hottest ever, the National Climatic Data Center reported Monday.Although the August average of 74.4 degrees Fahrenheit made it only the 16th hottest August on record, the hottest July ever combined with the hottest spring on record to keep January-August 2012 atop the record books.The nation as a whole is averaging 4 degrees Fahrenheit above average for the year. That’s a full degree higher than the same period in 2006, the second hottest January-August on record.Record keeping began in 1895.The record warmth is a constant for from cities north to south, from Fargo, North Dakota, at 5.7 degrees F above average, to Tampa, Florida, at 2.2 degrees F above average. Green Bay, Wisconsin, posted the biggest difference to the average, 6.7 degrees F above.

The hottest temperature recorded for the month was 126 degrees F in Death Valley, California, recently recognized as the hottest place on Earth.If you were looking colder than normal weather, the West Coast was the place to be. San Diego was .2 degrees F below normal for the year, San Francisco was 1 degree F below normal, Portland, Oregon, .7 degrees F below normal and Seattle, 1.1 degrees F below normal.Outside the continental 48, Alaska and Hawaii temperatures were also below normal.Meanwhile, drought conditions continued to affect a large chunk of the 48 states. The portion of the country experiencing exceptional drought, the worst level of drought, doubled in August to 6%, the NCDC reported. Overall, 39% of the country was in severe to extreme drought, “indicating that the drought has intensified,” it said. Only the droughts of the 1930s and 1950s have been worse, the agency said.