Monthly analysis of drought’s effects on agriculture |

Monthly analysis of drought’s effects on agriculture

During the four-week period ending on June 3, 2014, contiguous U.S. drought coverage declined 2.74 percentage points to 37.32 percent. Coverage reached its year-to-date peak of 40.06 percent on May 6, but subsequent rainfall across portions of the nation’s mid-section has slightly reduced drought’s imprint.

Nevertheless, drought still covers a substantial portion of the central and southern Plains and the western U.S. On June 3, the highest level of drought—D4, or exceptional drought—was noted in portions of California (25 percent), Oklahoma (21 percent), Texas (9 percent), Nevada (8 percent), Kansas (2 percent), and Colorado (2 percent). California also led the nation with 77 percent coverage of extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4).

In addition, California topped the U.S. with 70 percent of its rangeland and pastures rated in very poor to poor condition on June 1, according to USDA. Following California were New Mexico (68 percent very poor to poor), Arizona (55 percent), Kansas (43 percent), Oklahoma (43 percent), and Nevada (40 percent). According to the latest “agriculture in drought” statistics, based on the June 3 Drought Monitor, 29 percent of the domestic hay acreage and 43 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory were located in a drought-affected area.

The nation’s winter wheat crop continued to suffer from the effects of drought, a harsh winter, and several spring freezes. Based on the “agriculture in drought” statistics, 51 percent of the winter wheat production area was within an area experiencing drought on June 3. Nearly half (44 percent) of the U.S. winter wheat was rated in very poor to poor condition by USDA on June 1, paced by Oklahoma (78 percent very poor to poor), Texas (64 percent), and Kansas (62 percent). During the last two decades, only the drought-affected 2005-06 crop was rated lower overall at this time of year. On June 4, 2006, U.S. winter wheat was rated 48 percent very poor to poor.

Lingering drought in the western Corn Belt remained a concern with respect to pastures and summer crops. On June 3, drought covered 16 percent of the soybean area and 22 percent of the corn area. On June 1, Missouri (38 percent good to excellent) was the only state from the Mississippi Valley to the East Coast with less than half of its pastures rated in good to excellent condition. However, USDA’s first corn condition report of the year noted that 76 percent of the crop was rated in good to excellent condition—well above the early-June five-year average of 69 percent.

Weather outlook: During the next several days, impressive rains will continue across the nation’s mid-section in the form of heavy showers and locally severe thunderstorms. Five-day rainfall totals should reach at least 2 to 6 inches or more from portions of the central and southern Plains into the lower Ohio Valley. However, there will be a sharp western edge to the rainfall shield, with only light precipitation expected in much of western Texas and dry conditions forecast to continue west of the Rockies. In addition, heat will persist in the West, while a fairly impressive surge of cool air will reach the northern Plains on Friday and encompass the remainder of the Plains and Midwest by early next week.

– Office of the Chief Economist, USDA