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March 24, 2011

NOAA Sounds the Alarm for Potential Spring Flooding in U.S.

The most immediate concern for the U.S. spring planting season is the potential for spring flooding in the upper Midwest. In their U.S. Spring Flood Risk assessment issued late last week, NOAA sounded the alarm for potential flooding all across the Midwest, but especially along the Red River in North Dakota and Minnesota. Volunteers along the Red River have been filling sand bags for weeks in preparation for what could be the worst floods in years.

Heavy snows in the region over the last two days have added to the anxiety. Blizzard-like conditions and heavy snow moved across North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin and the near term forecast is calling for continued cold temperatures and repeated chances of snow. The longer the snow cover persists the greater the chances of flooding once the temperatures warm up.

If these floods do occur, and at this point it is still not certain that they will, the acreage planted to spring wheat and corn could end up being less than what was originally intended. The first crops planted in this region are small grains especially spring wheat and oats. Currently, the soils are completely saturated and it would take several weeks of warmer and dryer weather before the farmers could get into the fields and that is not even counting the possibility of spring rains or flooding.

The second major crop planted in the region is corn and continued wet conditions could also result in reduced corn acreage as well. In contrast, the soybean acreage in the region could end up being greater than what was originally intended. Since soybeans are the last crop planted, delays in planting the other spring crops could result in larger soybean acreage. Soybeans in the region can be planted until early June.

In 2010, farmers in North Dakota planted 2.05 million acres of corn, 6.4 million acres of spring wheat, and 4.1 million acres of soybeans.