Less drought: Drought conditions better; consequences yet to comeDrought conditions have improved in the last week in many parts of the eastern half of North Dakota, according to recent reports from climate and weather data agencies.
Drought conditions have improved in the last week in many parts of the eastern half of North Dakota, according to recent reports from climate and weather data agencies.
“The July 19 (U.S. Drought Monitor) report showed an outlook that the eastern half of the state was expecting some more severe drought conditions, but this most recent report (released Aug. 16) indicates that certainly has improved,” said Natalie Umphlett, regional climatologist with the High Plains Regional Climate Center.
The eastern half of Stutsman and Foster counties in addition to all of Griggs, Barnes and LaMoure counties are still under the U.S. Drought Monitor’s D2 conditions — which indicates severe drought intensity. The western half of Stutsman and Foster counties and most of Eddy, Logan, Dickey and Ransom counties have been reduced to D1 conditions — indicating moderate drought intensity.
“The precipitation your area had last week was rather timely,” said Dr. Adnan Akyuz, state climatologist for North Dakota, referring to the south-central part of the state. “Overall, the state has seen a slight improvement over the last Drought Monitor.”
According to the National Weather Service’s observed precipitation amounts, Stutsman County has seen about 1.5 inches of precipitation this month — which for most of western Stutsman County is between 75 and 90 percent of normal and for parts of eastern Stutsman is up to 75 percent normal.
More precipitation is certainly still needed and quite welcome, Akyuz said.
“Any amount of rain is welcome, but ideally, to improve conditions, the precipitation has to be divided into many days,” he said. “One large rain storm will only do so much in terms of saturation.”
Akyuz said the state’s spring season as well as the month of July have been near-records.
“This is our second warmest July in history, and it was the second warmest spring season in history as well,” he said.
The outlook from now through the end of November is positive, according to Umphlett.
“Our outlook from mid-August through the end of November shows some continued improvement for the drought areas in North Dakota,” she said. “For the central part of the state especially, these recent rains have helped alleviate some of those abnormally dry conditions.”
The near-record-breaking heat of spring and parts of the summer will lead to a ripple effect in terms of farms and ranches, according to Dwight Aakre, farm management specialist with the NDSU Extension Service.
“There’s little doubt that there’s going to be a ripple effect as a result,” he said. “The drought has already pushed grain prices to record highs — and a lot of food products come directly from grains.”
Even if conditions improve, Akyuz said only so much can be done about what has already taken place.
“What’s done is done. It’s not going to erase the impact that’s already been felt,” he said.
Akyuz said livestock are having a hard time finding feed, which Aakre said could cause livestock operations to begin shrinking.
“Immediately there probably won’t be too much of an impact in terms of meats, and there could perhaps be even lower prices in the short term when there will be more sales,” Aakre said. “By winter time, though, we’re going to see increased prices for all livestock.”
Aakre said that, as the number of cattle shrinks, the less supply that’s available to wholesalers and retailers. — which he said means the price of meat will likely be bid up.
“The USDA is holding about a 3 percent increase in the price of foods overall, and eventually the biggest impact that will eventually hit consumers will be on the meat side — meat, dairy and poultry products due to the increased feed costs and lowering profitability,” he said.
These effects will be felt all throughout the food supply chain, Aakre said.
He said this is a trend that has been taking place for years.
“The herd has been shrinking for a few years now. It could be years before it ever fully recovers,” he said.
While livestock recovery is a long process, Aakre said crop prices are capable of correcting much quicker.
“Assuming crop production comes back to near normal levels, the grain-price side of things can correct pretty quickly,” he said. “All of that, of course, depending on if we can get normal weather also.”
Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at email@example.com