Texas, the biggest U.S. cattle producer and second-largest winter-wheat grower, got just 4.7 inches (12 centimeters) of rain on average in the five months through February, the least for the period since 1967, State Climatologist John Nielsen- Gammon said. More than half the wheat fields and pastures were rated in poor or very poor condition on March 20.
Dry conditions extending to Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado may cut crop yields in the U.S., the world’s largest exporter, as too much moisture threatens fields in North Dakota and in Canada. Wheat futures in Chicago are up 50 percent in the past year, after drought in Russia and floods in Australia hurt output and sent global food prices surging. Wholesale beef reached a record this week, and the U.S. cattle herd in January was the smallest since 1958.
“We’re probably already seeing some damage, but in the next couple of weeks, we’ll surely go downhill major if we don’t get some rain,” said David Cleavinger, who is irrigating 75 percent of his 1,000 acres (405 hectares) of wheat in Wildorado, Texas. “With the prices we’re seeing, we’re trying to hold on, but there’s nothing that takes the place of a rainstorm.” (read more)