Crop Ratings Drop as Worst U.S. Drought Since 1956 Persists

The condition of the U.S. corn crop worsened for the seventh straight week, the longest such streak since September 2000, as the worst Midwest drought in a generation expanded. Soybean ratings also fell.

About 26 percent of the corn was in good or excellent condition as of yesterday, down from 31 percent a week earlier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today in a report. An estimated 31 percent of the soybeans got the top ratings, down from 34 percent. The assessments are the worst for both crops for this time of year since a drought in 1988.

“Conditions are really starting to decline even in areas that are supposed to be pretty good,” Tomm Pfitzenmaier, a partner at Summit Commodity Brokerage in Des Moines, Iowa, said in a telephone interview. “It’s been tough with a lot of wind and heat.”

Corn futures reached a record $8 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade today, and soybeans surged to $16.915 a bushel, the highest ever. Little or no rain fell in parts of Iowa and Illinois in the past 30 days, according to the National Weather Service.

A drought in 1988 led to a 31 percent drop in corn production from a year earlier and a 20 percent decline for soybeans, USDA data show.

Bad Timing

In the western Corn Belt and Great Plains, dry weather continued last week with temperatures topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius), Brad Rippey, a USDA meteorologist, said today in a USDA blog. The heat “could not have come at a worse time for corn and soybeans entering the reproductive stage of development,” Rippey wrote.

The hot weather will persist through mid-week across the Plains and Midwest, followed by “markedly cooler air” and 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) to 3 inches of rain, Rippey said.

“Prospects for Midwestern drought relief will improve this week, especially in the northern and eastern Corn Belt,” Rippey said. “Only light showers can be expected across the southwestern Corn Belt, from Nebraska to southern Illinois. Unfavorably dry conditions will also persist on the central and southern Plains.”

The government’s crop-conditions report showed 60 percent of spring wheat, a high-protein variety used to make bread and pasta, was rated good or excellent, down from 65 percent a week earlier. About 12 percent of the crop was harvested.

The winter-wheat harvest was 82 percent completed, compared with 80 percent a week earlier, the USDA said. The average for the previous five years was 73 percent.

About 47 percent of the cotton crop was rated good or excellent, compared with 45 percent a week earlier. An estimated 69 percent of the rice crop got the top ranking, compared with 70 percent a week earlier.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony C. Dreibus in Chicago at tdreibus@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Stroth at sstroth@bloomberg.net.

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