Crop Outlook Dimming as July Heat Compounded Drought Damage

Monday, August 20, 2012
By Paul Martin

By Jeff Wilson
BusinessWeek.com
August 20, 2012

U.S. corn farmers hurt by the worst drought in a generation probably will harvest smaller crops than the government forecast this month, based an analysis of dry spells in the past 42 years.

In the five drought years since 1970, farmers on average harvested 85.4 percent of the acres planted, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show. That’s below the 90.6 percent that the USDA predicted for this year on Aug. 10, when the agency cut its output forecast by 17 percent following the hottest July since 1936. The annual Professional Farmers of America survey of more than 2,000 fields in seven Midwest states starts today.

Moderate to exceptional drought conditions covered 51 percent of the nine-state Midwest region as of Aug. 14, compared with less than 1 percent a year earlier, government data show. Corn and soybean crop conditions are the worst since the last drought in 1988, according to the USDA. Corn futures have surged 60 percent since mid-July, boosting the cost of making livestock feed, ethanol and food products.

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