The spring weather pattern for the United States looks greatly improved from a year ago, when drought was both widespread and severe, which is good news for agricultural producers, a private weather forecaster said on Wednesday.
A series of winter storms, which have continued into March, add up to a more positive outlook for crops that will be planted from the Plains to the East Coast, AccuWeather said in its 2013 U.S. spring weather outlook.
"A bumper crop of corn alone later this summer could eventually reduce the pressure on grain, livestock feed and other consumer prices," said the firm, which is based in State College, Pennsylvania.
"Compared to last year, for the season as a whole, more moisture will be available for agriculture due to lower temperatures and lower evaporation rates from the Mississippi Valley to much of the Atlantic coastal plain."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has projected record large U.S. corn and soybean crops this year, assuming normal growing conditions. New-crop futures at the CBOT are trading well below old-crop in anticipation of bumper harvests.
"We expect ample moisture during most of the growing season, with few exceptions into this summer from the Mississippi Valey to the East Coast," said Paul Pastelok, head of AccuWeather's long-range forecasting department.
Echoing a recent U.S. government forecast, AccuWeather said that parts of California and the Florida peninsula could experience drought or at least drier-than-normal conditions into the first part of the summer.
"A lack of big snowstorms over the Sierra Nevada and other ranges in the West could mean water resource limitations in California," the firm said.
But overall, the severe drought that extended over much of the United States in 2012, and hammered U.S. corn, soybean and wheat growers, is not expected to be repeated.
Winter storms have added up to near-normal snowfall for major cropping areas of the lower Plains through the Midwest and in parts of the Northwest United States, AccuWeather said.
Average temperatures are also significantly lower this March from a year ago, which will result in lower evaporation rates for a time.
"Overall, less long-lasting, extreme heat is forecast from the Mississippi Valley to the East during most of the spring and summer," the group said.
One negative of cooler spring temperatures is that crops generally could be planted later this year, limiting the opportunity for double-cropping, said Dale Mohler, an agricultural weather specialist with the firm. (Reporting By Ros Krasny; Editing by Bernard Orr)