I’ve decided to avoid this week, for the most part anyway, any discussion about drought conditions in the country . One reason is that, for the West and Northern Plains, drought is a depressing topic  to contemplate. Plus, it seems like I spent much of last summer relaying similar messages about the drought in the Southern Plains .
For perspective, however, USDA’s recent ratings of pasture  conditions are actually worse than a year ago at this time. In addition, forest fires continue to char the West, and the heart of fire season has not yet begun.
We’re starting to see cow liquidation  begin in earnest in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, while other parched areas of the country still have a window of a couple of weeks before they will be forced to act. Ranchers remain an optimistic bunch, though, and I am among them. In fact, we had some clouds building last week and I had my boys run out and make sure the rain gauges were empty.
The results of their expedition were telling. Three rain gauges averaged four dead bugs and 0.16 in. of dust. When you are emptying the dirt out your rain gauges you have to be considered an optimist.
The good news is that some areas did receive much-needed rains over the past week. In addition, while there is growing concern about weather conditions in the Corn Belt, especially the eastern Corn Belt, the crop is still in relatively good shape and ahead of schedule. The next several weeks will be telling, as the crop is stressed. Timely rains, however, could still result in some pretty bountiful harvests; no relief, and we will start to see crop expectations fall.
Track the drought situation at http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu.