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Published October 25, 2012, 11:39 AM

Drought holds its grip as growers pivot to wheat

The worst U.S. drought in decades is showing little signs of easing as farmers close out their corn harvests and pivot toward growing winter wheat that’s now struggling in the dry conditions.

By: Jim Suhr, Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — The worst U.S. drought in decades is showing little signs of easing as farmers close out their corn harvests and pivot toward growing winter wheat that’s now struggling in the dry conditions.

The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor update released Thursday shows that more than roughly 62 percent of the land in the lower 48 states is experiencing some degree of drought.

The situation remains dire in South Dakota, with just under 57 percent of the state in the two worst categories of drought, extreme and exceptional. Last week, slightly more than 57 percent of the state was in those two categories. All of the state is in some form of drought.

About 95 percent of North Dakota is in some category of drought, but the state no longer has any areas in extreme drought. Last week, about 5 percent of the state was in that category.

The federal government says farmers have harvested 87 percent of the nation’s corn crop and 80 percent of its soybeans.

Farmers had planted 81 percent of the winter wheat crop as of Monday. Only half of the crop has emerged, which is 7 percentage points lower than average.

In South Dakota, only 13 percent of the wheat crop has germinated, compared with the five-year average of 80 percent.

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