Iowa Public Television


Dog Days of Summer Stress Crops

posted on August 29, 2003

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.

Pick any of the closely watched reports issued by the government this week and you'll find indications the economy has snapped out of the doldrums.

In fact, the U.S. economy grew at a solid 3.1 percent in the second quarter of the year, thanks to government spending on the Iraq war and consumer and business spending, as well. Indeed, disposable income jumped dramatically in July, due in part to the most recent tax cut. And orders for costly durable goods, like automobiles, also are on the rise.

And yet, the equities markets are only cautiously optimistic. A weak job market and record federal budget deficit have tempered any full-throttle rally.

The same is true in the commodities pits, where despite a growing sense of a weather market, the trade remains wary.


Despite entering the month of August in top form, a recent heat wave has caused a drastic change in this week's crop conditions.

While heat indexes in the Central United States were dancing around the 100 degree mark this month, rainfall amounts were well below normal, including an average precipitation total of one half inch to one and a half inches in the western Corn Belt region.

According to the Agriculture Department's weekly report, 50% of the nation's corn crop is currently in good to excellent condition, down 10% from last week. Forty-eight percent of soybeans fall in the good to excellent range, down 8% from last week. This marks the first time this season that corn and soybean conditions have dipped below their long-term averages.

While the degree of impact on production of the recent weather remains to be determined, the declining crop ratings have not yet translated into a bull market.

In the corn pits, for instance, analysts aren't entirely convinced there's a correlation between falling crop ratings and yield. Prices on December corn futures are only 25 cents above their lows and traders are expecting prices to remain choppy until the market fully grasps what's happened to corn yields. November soybean futures prices did improve this week, but failed to break through $6.00 resistance levels.


Tags: agriculture crops drought news summer weather