One thing is for certain: the drought hasn't "left the building." The High Plains continue to struggle with dwindling soil moisture as wheat attempts to enter dormancy and expanding drought plagues the Upper Midwest, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor.
In Minnesota and Wisconsin, short-term precipitation deficits warranted expanding D2 conditions, Eric Luebehusen of the USDA says. Benefits from heavy rain in June are nearly gone in Minnesota, and rapid declines in streamflows and moisture conditions were noted.
Farther south into Illinois and Indiana, drier conditions were noted in the Northern parts of each state. Overall, dryness in the Midwest led to modest increases in drought conditions.
Though much of the nation has emerged from the exceptional (D4) drought suffered this summer, the winter wheat crop in the High Plains is still at risk, with the latest U.S. Drought Monitor reporting that 98% of the area in Nebraska, Kansas, the Dakotas, Colorado and Wyoming is experiencing some form of drought.
Winter wheat was rated 64% and 25% poor to very poor in South Dakota and Kansas, respectively, as of Nov. 25, Luebehusen says, while Kansas' pastures were rated 82% poor to very poor. Extreme to exceptional drought also continued to afflict eastern Colorado, where pastures were rated 85% poor to very poor as of Nov. 25.
Farm Futures blogger Tanner Ehmke reports this week that thin stands and poor root development are inhibiting the ability of the winter wheat crop to transition to dormancy.
Despite the many expansions of drought noted in this week's Drought Monitor, residents of the Western U.S. can praise storms that have brought significant rainfall to much of the region, though the eastern and southern fringes remain dry.
Conditions on the East Coast were either unchanged or slipped into some form of drought. Rainfall over the past two months in northern Florida and southern Alabama northeastward, Luebehusen notes, has totaled less than 50% of normal. A strong area of drought remains in Central Georgia and pasture conditions there have slipped from 29% poor to very poor to 53% poor to very poor, just in the last month.
USDA said Tuesday that ongoing drought has caused a decline in farm incomes, though farm equity will increase. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said the forecast was "heartening," highlighting farmers' and ranchers' "ability to remain competitive through thick and thin."