| CHICAGO, April 29
CHICAGO, April 29 Rain around the U.S. Midwest
kept farmers out of fields last week matching the slowest corn
planting pace ever, government data released on Monday showed.
The weather also took a toll on the developing winter wheat
crop, which deteriorated to its worst condition for this time of
year in 17 years.
The U.S. Agriculture Department said corn planting, as of
April 28, was 5 percent complete, just 1 percentage point ahead
of where farmers were a week ago. The pace was the slowest since
1984, when farmers also had completed just 5 percent of their
Analysts had predicted corn planting to be 9 percent
finished, according to the average of 13 estimates in a Reuters
poll that ranged from 7 to 11 percent.
Prior to USDA's planting report, corn traders on Monday had
expected a slow planting place and bid Chicago corn futures 6
percent higher for their biggest gain since July.
In Iowa, the top U.S. corn producing state, planting was
just 2 percent complete. Farmers in Illinois and Indiana, two
other major producers, had finished just 1 percent of their corn
"Wet fields are the topic for most farmers across the
state," the Illinois field office of USDA's National
Agricultural Statistics Service said in a report. "The heavy
rains from the week before combined with the cooler-than-normal
temperatures, have many fields still too wet. There has been no
significant planting done yet."
The five-year U.S. average for the end of April is 31
percent, while a year ago, farmers had finished 49 percent of
their corn planting. Corn planting in 2012 was completed in
record time but the final crop came in well below expectations
due to the drought that hit the Midwest during the summer.
"Our main concern is not that we didn't get most of our crop
planted by the end of April, it's just we're not quite sure when
we're going to start," said Emerson Nafziger, agronomist at the
University of Illinois.
In 1984, the last time planting was as slow as it is now,
the sluggish ace had little impact on harvest, with final corn
yields averaging 32 percent better than the previous year.
Farmers typically aim to have the bulk of their crop seeded
by the middle of May to ensure that the corn has enough time to
mature so it can withstand the heat of the Midwest summer.
USDA rated the winter wheat crop 33 percent good to
excellent, the lowest for this time of year since 1996, when the
crop also was rated 33 percent good to excellent. A week ago,
U.S. winter wheat was 35 percent good to excellent and was rated
64 percent good to excellent a year ago.
In Kansas, the largest producer of hard red winter wheat,
good-to-excellent ratings fell 3 percentage points to 27
The Wheat Quality Council's annual tour of the state starts
on Tuesday and scouts will get a close look at the damage caused
by drought and a cold snap in April.
In the Midwest, farmers will likely push planting forward
during the first half of the week before more rain drives them
from the fields again. Forecasts call for rain amounts of 0.5
to 1.0 inch across the region.
Wet fields and cold weather also delayed farmers in the
northern U.S. Plains trying to seed spring wheat. USDA said
spring wheat planting was just 12 percent complete compared to
the five-year average of 37 percent.
USDA will provide its first update on soybean planting in
its May 6 crop progress report.
(Additional reporting by Christine Stebbins; Editing by Bob