The USDA assessment of the condition of the corn and soybean crops nationwide took a beating from derecho damage in Iowa and droughty weather in the Midwest during August, said the USDA on Monday. The Crop Progress report listed 62 percent of corn and 66 percent of soybeans in good or excellent condition, compared to 72 percent of corn and 73 percent of soybeans in those categories at the start of month.
After two weeks of moderate to heavy rain and snow, drought is on the wane across the United States. Only 16 percent of the nation is in drought, down 3 points since last week and a drop of 8 points since the start of the year, said the weekly Drought Monitor.
Nearly 40 percent of California, the northern part of the state, is free of drought, a startling change thanks to heavy rain and snow since the Oct. 1 start of the wet season, says the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor. But moderate to exceptional drought covered the central and southern parts of the agriculturally important Central Valley of the nation's No. 1 farm state.
The U.S. Northeast, home to 175,000 farms, is under the worst drought in more than a decade, says the NPR blog The Salt. "Many fields are bone dry," says NPR, "and that has many farmers thinking about how to manage their land, their animals and the water that is there."
A heat wave, with temperatures up to 12 degrees above normal, enveloped the Pacific Northwest with abnormally dry conditions, said the weekly Drought Monitor. "Long-term drought remains in California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico as we move into the heat of summer," said the Monitor, which said 84 percent of California was in drought.
Much of central and southern Texas is abnormally dry following unusually warm weather and two months of scanty rainfall, reports the Drought Monitor.
California water officials said snowpack in the Sierra Nevada was nearly 19 inches or 115 percent of average, "a modest yet encouraging milestone in a period of prolonged drought," says the Los Angeles Times. It was the deepest snowpack in five years. Meanwhile El Niño rainstorms have raised water levels in reservoirs.
Only a quarter of the contiguous United States is in drought after heavy rains soaked many regions, particularly in the southern Great Plains and the Mississippi Delta, says the weekly Drought Monitor, down from 35 percent in mid-October. The worst conditions are west of the Rockies.
One of the strongest El Nino weather patterns ever forecast is expected to peak in late fall or early winter but it's too early to say if it will ease the four-year-old drought in Californa.
Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels continue to decline in the Pacific Northwest, where streamflows have shriveled to record or near-record lows, says the weekly Drought Monitor.
Five western states - Idaho, Utah, Washington, Oregon and California - saw the hottest June this year in 121 years of record-keeping, says the weekly Drought Monitor.
While drought is entrenched in the West, it has disappeared in the rest of the country for the most part. Some 23 percent of the contiguous United States is in drought, a drop of 15 points since the first week of May, says the Drought Monitor.
Most of Minnesota -- 88 percent -- is in moderate drought, a dramatic expansion from 6 percent a week ago, says the Drought Monitor. Record-high temperatures accelerated dryness.
The Interior Department says there will be no irrigation water for most farmers in California's Central Valley for the second year in a row, calling it "an unprecedented situation."
The snowpack in California's Sierra Nevada is 25 percent of normal for late January, "on par with some of the worst years on record," says the San Francisco Chronicle.
Drought will persist or intensify during winter in Washington state, Oregon and the northern two-thirds of California as well as the wheat-growing southern Plains, forecasts the National Weather Service.
Precipitation in late December and early January in California "did not provide enough moisture to dent long-term drought," says the weekly Drought Monitor.
Two weeks of rainy and snowy weather "has provided California a foothold for drought recovery but three straight winters of subnormal precipitation will take time, possibly several consecutive wet winters to recharge the reservoir levels and...