July 23, 2012 / 12:27 PM / 6 years ago

Some US crops get welcome drink amid devastating drought

* Beneficial rains for northern Midwest
    * Some rains in the south late in the week
    * Not ideal weather, but an improvement
    * Corn and soybean prices tumble on rainfall

    By Sam Nelson
    CHICAGO, July 23 (Reuters) - Rain will fall early this week in the northern
U.S. Midwest, with from 1 to 2 inches expected across a broad parched swath of
corn and soybean land roughly north of Interstate 80, an agricultural
meteorologist predicted Monday.
    "It's good news and bad news today. The good is rain north of I-80 with
widespread coverage and temperatures in the mid- to low 90s degrees Fahrenheit,"
said John Dee of Global Weather Monitoring.
    "The bad news is it will still be hot and dry south of I-80 and temperatures
will reach the 100s F in most of Iowa, Missouri and Illinois with little or no
rainfall," he added.
    Showers will come to the southern Midwest late in the week. "They will
receive some rain on the order of 0.40 to 0.80 inch late in the week with good
coverage. Missouri and western Iowa may get shorted though," Dee said.
    The most expansive drought in more than a half century has hurt the U.S.
corn and soybean crops, leading to cuts in estimated production. The lack of
rain was drying up waterways and beginning to slow river shipments of
commodities to export ports on the Gulf of Mexico.
    The rains come too late to help the early planted corn that already had
pollinated during the height of the hot weather and dryness, but late-planted
corn and a good chunk of the nation's soybean crop will find relief this week.
    Chicago Board of Trade corn and soybean futures plunged Monday on outlooks
for the better crop weather after reaching record highs late last week on
scorching heat and a near relentless drought.
    At 7:00 a.m. CDT (1200 GMT), CBOT spot September corn was down 24-3/4
cents at $7.99-3/4 per bushel after hitting a record high $8.28-3/4 on Friday.
August soybeans were down 42-1/4 cents at $17.15 a bushel after reaching a
record $17.77-3/4 late last week.
     The U.S. government has been slashing its condition ratings for corn and
soybeans each week, and will release an updated weekly crop rating and crop
progress report later Monday.
    Crop experts and analysts have been lowering production estimates for corn
and soybeans almost hourly, leading up to what will be an important government
monthly crop report on Aug. 10.
     Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) corn prices have soared more than 50 percent
in just six weeks to a record high $8.28-3/4 a bushel on Friday, surpassing the
previous record of $7.99-3/4 set 13 months ago.
    The U.S. government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
on Thursday issued a forecast that showed no relief from the drought for at
least the rest of this summer. 
    NOAA said in a report on Monday that, based on the Palmer Drought Index, 55
percent of the contiguous United States was under moderate to extreme drought in
June, making it the largest land area in the United States to be affected by a
drought since December 1956.             

 (Reporting By Sam Nelson; Editing by John Picinich)
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