Analysts are calling it the worst U.S. drought in a generation. Not since 1988 have corn and soybean crops experienced as much risk for failure. 2012 is destined for the record books.

Doane’s annual crop tour observes drought-devastated crop 2012 will mark the 29th consecutive year for Doane Advisory Services in St Louis to conduct its late July crop tour through the major producing counties of the Midwest. Doane agricultural economists Marty Foreman and Bill Nelson will be assessing corn and soybean production prospects from Nebraska in the west to Ohio in the east, from Minnesota in the north to St. Louis in the south.  There will be two routes traveled leading out and back to St Louis. The team will head northwest from St Louis on the western Midwest route the week of July 22. That will be followed the week of July 29 with the team swinging east to Ohio and back to St Louis.

Marty and Bill are approaching this year’s tour with much anticipation of what likely be one of the most bewildering arrays of crop prospects in a generation. Corn crops have been devastated by the intense drought near their St Louis home base. But there are some reports of good prospects in the northern Corn Belt, an area that has been blessed by timely showers. In between there is a mass of unpredictable variations in prospects.

The task for the economists is to attempt to make some headway in understanding and quantifying the degree of damage inflicted by the weather. It is clearly a moving target given the erratic nature of the weather and the sensitivity of yields to small variations in the weather for fields that are on the precipice of severe losses. But it is a task that USDA will soon engage in to produce its August Crop Production report scheduled for release on August 10. Because of Doane’s long distinguished track record with results that historically match the accuracy of the benchmark USDA estimates, but released ahead of USDA, its survey and reports are ones that many in the industry much anticipate.

In order to keep clients and other interested parties up to date on the trip findings, the Doane team will be filing periodic reports from the field. These will include “tweets” of quick observations following field stops along with pictures to depict the varying qualities of the crops. Marty and Bill will file a final assessment of crop prospects at the conclusion of the tour. The assessment findings and crop forecasts will be published in various Doane Advisory Services publications.