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Drought eases, but too late for US corn

Friday, September 14, 2012    

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MISSOURI, USA - Recent rainfall came too late to help the withered US corn crop already being harvested in many parts of the country, but it kept the strongest drought in decades from worsening in several key Midwest and Plains states and should help other crops still in the fields.

The US Drought Monitor's weekly map released yesterday showed the area of Nebraska deemed to be in extreme or exceptional drought -- the two most severe categories - held steady during the seven-day period ending Tuesday, at 97.4 per cent. Kansas remained unchanged, at 88.34 per cent.

The US is the world's leading producer of corn, wheat and soybeans, and the drought raised widespread concern about higher food prices.

The land area in the lower 48 states in extreme or exceptional drought remained at about 21 per cent.

The latest report came a day after the US Department of Agriculture slightly lowered its estimate for the nation's average corn per acre yield, pegging it at its lowest point since 1995.

Corn and soybean prices have soared this summer amid worries of tighter supplies. Major corn users - livestock farmers, the ethanol industry and other countries importing it - will be forced to negotiate their level of use, a sort of market rationing that takes place in years of low supply.

Storms that rumbled across portions of the Corn Belt in recent weeks from Hurricane Isaac's fallout and subsequent storms have contributed moisture that growers say could benefit still-maturing soybean fields.

As of Monday, the USDA said 15 per cent of the nation's corn crop had been brought it from the fields.

Fifty-two percent of the nation's corn crop was listed as being in poor or very poor shape as of Monday, unchanged from a week earlier, the USDA said. Soybean harvests are just four per cent complete, with 36 per cent of that overall crop considered poor or very poor, just one per cent better than a week earlier.

Farmers planted more corn this year than in any other since 1937, meaning that despite one of the nation's worst droughts in decades the US is still expected to produce its eighth largest corn crop on record.

Total corn production for this season is now forecast at 10.73 billion bushels, down slightly from last month's estimate.

Soybean production was projected at 2.63 billion bushels in the report, down 58 million from last month's estimate due to lower yields in the Midwest.

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