Iowa Public Television


Weather Extremes Steal Farm Profits

posted on May 24, 2002

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. The nation's financial community got a dose of good news this week. Prodded by consumer spending, especially for big-ticket durable goods, the economy in the first quarter expanded by a robust 5.6 percent.

The news however did not push stock indices higher. Many on Wall Street complain that government terrorist alerts have discouraged investors. Few members of the financial community seem to be taking delivery on the fact that investors, stung by assorted scandals and dubious practices in myriad corporate boardrooms, may be factoring a "credibility discount" into the market.

In Rural America, quite the opposite may be in play now. The term "risk premium" is beginning to make its way into the market place. Its entry is paved by an age-old factor, weather.


It's early in the fire season, but a good portion of the intermountain west, already suffering from drought, is beginning to flame. Pasture and grazing conditions are stressed, and ranchers are culling herds in anticipation of a hard summer on the range.

The drought is also claiming yields in the winter wheat belt. Seeding of winter wheat varieties were already the lowest in 31 years. And as the 2002 wheat harvest begins Sixty-seven percent of the crop is rated as no better than fair. Thirty-six percent is rated in poor or very poor condition.

Thus far grain markets have been unimpressed by the grim harvest prospects for wheat. Indifferent world demand and ample supplies continue to contain any upward price movement.

The markets have been more impressed by another weather pattern that threatens to inundate the eastern Corn Belt under.

While 70 percent of the nation's corn crop has been planted, compared to an average pace of 87 percent, corn producers in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio are far behind. Normally those states have the seed in the ground by now, but producers are beginning to wonder if it's not too late to plant a corn or soybean crop.

In cotton country, 69 percent of the crop has been planted compared to an average of 70 percent. But, it's expected producers, encouraged by higher government subsidies, may plant as much as an additional million more acres of the fiber this year. While the additional fiber output won't help the weak market for it, the acres devoted to cotton might well buttress soybean prices.


Tags: agriculture crops harvest markets news weather