Crop Insurance Today - 7

corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton base prices
dropped below the base prices for any year from
2010 through 2015. Base prices in 2017 continued to decline for winter wheat and rice, but have
increased for corn, soybeans, spring wheat, and
cotton. The drop in base prices, combined with
lower 2016 volatility factors for all major crops
(which are used to set premium rates), contributed to a five percent drop in total program
premiums.
Loss ratios by state were generally favorable
nationwide, with only seven states having loss ratios greater than 1.0. And these states were mostly low volume states in the Northeast. Conversely,
the states with the lowest loss ratios tended to be
high volume states in the Midwest.
Corn and soybeans continued to be the top
premium crops, accounting for two-thirds of U.S.
premiums in 2015, with wheat coming in third.
Texas had the highest amount of indemnities
among all states, and North Dakota and California were second and third in claims. Excess moisture was the most significant cause of loss in all
three states. Other major contributors were hail
and heat in Texas, hail in North Dakota, and failure of irrigation supply in California.

U.S. Weather and
Production of Major Crops

Winter 2015/16. The widely discussed El
Niño did not disappoint during the winter of
2015/16. The Lower 48 States experienced the
wettest winter (Figure 1) since the record-setting El Niño of 1997-98. In addition, the warm
atmosphere in the central and eastern equatorial
Pacific Ocean contributed to the warmest December-February period on record for the United States. However, El Niño's impacts did not
correspond to previous experiences. There were
wetter conditions in the Pacific Northwest and
drier weather in the Southwest, wet conditions in
the Midwest, and the normally cooler conditions
in the South during an El Niño occurred only in
periods of January and February
The month of December (Figure 1) reflects
the unusual winter conditions, ranking first alltime for both United States warmth and wetness.
The wet conditions in late December resulted in
record flooding in parts of the middle Mississippi Valley. To put the wet winter in perspective,
the United States Drought Monitor recorded
drought covering 34.8 percent of the contiguous
States on October 20, 2015, but declined to 14.3
percent by March 1, 2016.

Figure 3 Planting Progress: Acres Planted in 2016 as a Percent
of Previous 5 Year Average

While wet and warm conditions dominated
the story of the winter, there were some extreme
cold weather events as well. A late December
blizzard on the southern High Plains was responsible for a catastrophic loss of livestock. In
addition, a late January blizzard raged across the
Mid-Atlantic States with snow fall reaching the
interior of the Southeast. A February warming
trend provided a winding down of the stormy
winter season.
Spring 2016. During much of the spring ,
warm, wet conditions covered much of the country (Figure 2). The entire contiguous United
States experienced temperatures that fell inside
the warmest one-quarter of the historical temperature distribution. As always there were some
exceptions, with cold weather in some areas. Notably, despite a warm March, freezes in the beginning of April resulted in some losses among fruit
and ornamental crop production in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States.
Other exceptions included dry conditions
that occurred in the Northeast, where a lack of
moisture and the April freezes resulted in a late
spring greening. An area of short-term dryness
also developed in several other areas, including
the Pacific Northwest and the interior Southeast.
The Midwest was free of drought at the end of
May, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, but
also saw a late-spring drying trend in many areas.
On the West Coast, the northern part of Cal-

ifornia experienced heavy precipitation during
the first half of March, further easing long-term
drought. Conversley, the southern part of the
state remained mostly dry, although there was
enough moisture to signal the end of a fifth consecutive year (2011-12 to 2015-16) of drought.
While some areas of the Southwest remained
in long-term drought, overall, by mid-March,
drought conditions in the lower 48 states reached
12.4 percent, a 5½-year minimum. Following
dry period conditions early on, spring rains resulted in a 12.7 percent drought coverage by the
end of May.

Crop Planting Progress
and Crop Conditions1

Much like 2015, April was warm across most
of the country except for the Great Lakes Region
and the Northeast where below normal temperatures prevailed. Widespread rains fell in the
Central Plains and Southeast, there was above
normal moisture in parts of the Great Plains and
the Delta, and the Northwest and Northeast recorded drier than normal conditions. Favorable
conditions signaled the start of early-season corn
planting. As of April 17, 13 percent of the nation's
corn crop was planted, six percent ahead of last
year and five percent above the five-year average
(Figure 3). By May 1 farmers had planted 45 percent of the corn crop, equal to 2015's early planting rate but well ahead of the five-year average at

1

Source: National Agricultural Statistics Service, ISSN: 1057-7823, Crop Production 2016 Summary, January 2017
www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/State_Crop_Progress_and_Condition/
www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/National_Crop_Progress/
www.nass.usda.gov/Quick_Stats/Lite/index.php

CROPINSURANCE TODAY®

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http://www.nass.usda.gov/Quick_Stats/Lite/result.php?73BB573E-E930-35B6-B53F-8CA1A7510AF6 http://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/State_Crop_Progress_and_Condition/ http://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/National_Crop_Progress/ http://www.nass.usda.gov/Quick_Stats/Lite/index.php

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