Active weather in recent weeks a sign of optimism for farmers

By: Matt Hoffman Email
By: Matt Hoffman Email

Chippewa Falls, Wis. (WEAU) -- Much of Western Wisconsin is still contending with a severe drought. But eastern portions of the state are in the clear. Farmers are hoping this relief continues westward. We've seen some pretty active weather since the start of the year and we're running a surplus in precipitation. But we'll definitely need more to combat the stubborn drought from 2012.

Jerry Clark with UW Extension says the current snow pack across Western Wisconsin will only be beneficial for crops come spring if the water can get down into the soil below the surface.

"As we look at what's above ground, until we start to see that frost line that's in the sub-soil start to move up where we can get some percolation of that water into the soil, we might be seeing really no advantage of it in a quick snow melt," explains Clark.

He says what we'd like to see is a gradual snow melt over the course of a few weeks in March. All of the snow running off quickly would mean a bad start to the growing season for farmers. "Things can change in a hurry but going into it right now i think we're pretty optimistic about what we can see."

Nationally, Clark says feedstocks like hay need to have a good growing season not only here but especially in the harder hit drought areas of the Great Plains.

"Prices are going to stay high as long as corn and soybean prices stay high. They make up a lot of the diet for the animals we grow and the products we produce so as long as those products stay up a little bit with demand and lack of supply which we had last year then you start to see that price stay up and food prices will be relatively high for the next year."

On the national drought outlook, exceptional drought conditions stretch from the Dakotas down to Texas. These areas will need a lot of precipitation. It does look wet in the near future for the Great Plains but in the long term there’s not much relief in the next three months. Locally in Wisconsin and Minnesota, the Climate Prediction Center is expecting improvement in our drought status.

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