This blog entry going into the mid-December weekend has several topics; hopefully enough to occupy some early-morning or late-night time if you're so inclined. First to my thoughts following our 6th annual DTN/Progressive Farmer Ag Summit.
I had an hour to talk about the winter & spring weather outlook during the final session of the Summit this past Wednesday, Dec 12. I told several people beforehand and posted on Twitter as well that I had at least 2 hours' worth of material--and I wasn't kidding. A full look at the circumstances we've got going on that brought on the Drought of 2012 and as things stand now threaten to roll into the Drought of 2013 in much of the country would have swallowed up the entire morning. But, while that would be interesting to me, my guess is that our Summit attendees would have run out of listening power long before that marathon would have been over with.
As it was, there were apparently quite a few in the audience who, after the weather discussion was over, had comments like "Boy, that was a downer." "Couldn't he have said something more positive to finish out the conference?" "Is that all he can do is talk about drought?" This was after the bottom line to the forecast was--given conditions the way they are here in mid-December 2012, it looks to us that the best conditions going into spring 2013 will be over the Eastern Corn Belt and the Delta.
But there's more: The Western Corn Belt and most of the Plains are likely to start out this next spring dry. The Palmer Drought Index (PDI) national value slipped below -4.0 back in July. There have been 12 occurrences of this magnitude since 1895; and the minimum time frame to get back to 0 on the PDI in those 12 events was 18 months. That implies that it might likely be at least January of 2014 before this dry situation shows some definite improvement. And, within those 12 occurrences of -4.0 or lower, you have such time spans as 51 months (4 1/4 years) in the 1930s and 47 months (almost a full 4 years) in the 1950s when the PDI stayed below -4.0. These numbers and research were put together for our shop by contributing analyst Joel Karlin; they may have been compiled by other sources as well. The reaction that I got from our attendees at the Ag Summit was that in some respects, this was new information.
Given that potential for drought to again be a big issue this coming crop year, corn yield performance at trend line of more than 160 bushels per acre, in our DTN Ag Weather group's opinion, needs to be taken with a considerable dose of salt. Yields in the past 3 years have been 151, 147 and 122 bushels per acre, for a 3-year average of 140. Considering that we are drier in the Midwest by a long, long ways relative to the past three winter seasons ('09, '10 and '11), I think that 140 is a fair number to look at--maybe up to 145.
I apologize if my comments were disappointing; however, we try to represent what's going on and the forecast fairly. (I also have an idea that maybe the disappointment was in the idea that the weather discussion was what folks feared it would be. That would not be a surprise; you all know far better than I what the situation is at your location--and I think I have a pretty good idea.
Bottom line--this is a historic event. No doubt about it.
Speaking of drought--USDA and NOAA announced this week that the 2 agencies will collaborate in an effort to improve drought forecasts. Here is part of the formal announcement:
"In the wake of a series of regional drought conferences with farmers, ranchers, business owners and other stakeholders, USDA is entering into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Department of Commerce, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to improve sharing of data and expertise, monitoring networks, and drought forecasting efforts. The MOU is a direct outcome of the regional conferences."
Nothing definite is available beyond that announcement. You can read the full announcement here: http://tinyurl.com/…
And--NOAA's Climate Data Center announced this week that 2012 will go down in the books as the warmest year on record. The news release announcing this finding said in part:
"•The January-November period was the warmest first 11 months of any year on record for the contiguous United States. The national temperature of 57.1°F was 3.3°F above the 20th century average, and 1.0°F above the previous record warm January-November of 1934. During the 11-month period, 18 states were record warm and an additional 24 states were top ten warm.
•It appears virtually certain that 2012 will surpass the current record (1998, 54.3°F) as the warmest year for the nation. December 2012 temperatures would need to be more than 1.0°F colder than the coldest December (1983) for 2012 to not break the record.
•January-November 2012 was the 12th driest such period on record for the contiguous U.S., with a precipitation total 3.08 inches below the long-term average of 26.91 inches."
The full State of the Climate report is at this link. It's good for at least an hour's worth of checking out.
Finally--one more Summit note. Videographer Nick Scalise and I did quite a few interviews of newsmakers, Young Farmer Award winners, Summit and DTN University participants, and sponsors during the Ag Summit. We had a good time talking to everyone--but one pre-interview conversation stood out. As we were doing a microphone check with Jamie Schultz, district sales manager for Ram Trucks (one of the Summit sponsors), I asked Jamie a little about his background, and he related that he was a Marine Corps veteran. I then asked him if he had seen action--he said "Yes". He had been in Afghanistan and in some firefights. After his experiences I asked him how he liked his job now. And he said, "I never have a bad day." I will remember that story when I think that I'm having one.
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