Producers in the southeast are passing the halfway point of the winter season, one that is shaping up to be relatively dry in keeping with last summer. This could be a cause for headache come spring.
"Broadbrush speaking, there wasn't a lot of snow," said local farmer Edgar Hammermeister of the fall period, "There was some very localized storms that did a little bit of a recharge, but for the most part the soil was really quite empty. I don't count or really focus on the snow that we have at this point in winter, it's really what snow there is at the end of March and beginning of April."
He noted that the snow that is present on the ground could easily disappear without even melting, through a process called sublimation. However, winter cereals can benefit from a layer of the white stuff due to the insulation and protection it would provide. In addition, it would protect the soil itself from 'freezer burn'. That said, the second half of the season may bring all the snow we've been missing.
"I don't want to exaggerate. For any time to have a drought, winter is the best time. But with the cattlemen in mind, it's not just moisture for the early pasture growth, they're looking for moisture to fill dugouts, and that will be a very important concern as we go through the winter here."
Overall, however, Hammermeister notes that producers aren't extremely worried about spring, though the concern varies region to region.
"It's going to be very much hand to mouth rain to keep the crop going. The farmers are going to be quite conservative in how they're allocating their dollars, and what crops they pick to try and reduce their risk."