The US drought monitor update this week was significant for several reasons. Not only did drought area in the US grow 2% last week, but we also reached the threshold of 60% of the continental US with drought conditions. Western regions are especially impacted and that will have the most impact on wheat and cattle regions. The last time the US reached 60% was in 2012 when the drought monitor reached 65% at its peak. Of special concern is how drought areas have developed east of the country’s spine, a natural ridge that runs north to south through the center of the US that Interstate 35 follows relatively close. Elwyn Taylor, Iowa Extension Climatologist refers to this frequently as he talks about how the Pacific Ocean controls the weather west of I-35 while the Atlantic dictates the weather east of that natural ridge. Significant droughts that really impact corn and soybean production require both the Pacific and Atlantic to provide the drought conditions at the same time. Much of the “corn belt” lies to the east of the ridge and areas to the west have irrigation that allowed the US to produce good grain totals despite a significant drought in the west. We say rain makes grain but truly sunshine makes the highest grain yields if you can water it. Taylor always warned to watch for a Bermuda high to set up and block moisture moving into the Southeast in the late Winter (Feb-Mar) with drought moving into the corn belt from the southeast. Hopefully the La Nina that is present in the Pacific will break down soon and allow more moisture into the west. We’ve had 75 consecutive weeks with 40% or more of the US with drought conditions which is now 7 weeks longer than the previous longest streak back in 2012-2013.