Economic Tidbits

What About the Drought?

In 2022, drought ruled Nebraska agriculture and was the dominant factor influencing crop production. Because of the drought, crop production was off notably compared to previous years. Corn production was off 21 percent compared to 2021 and 21.5 percent compared to 2020. Likewise, soybean production was off 22 percent compared to 2021 and 10 percent compared to 2020.

Figures 3 and 4 show county-level changes between 2022 and 2020 in corn and soybean production to demonstrate the impact of drought on last year’s crop. Numbers for 2020 were used to make comparisons to last year due to the greater availability of county-level data relative to 2021. Comparisons were able to be made for 69 counties for corn and 58 counties for soybeans. Darker-colored counties had production gains in 2022 compared to 2020, while lighter-colored counties had less production in 2022. Counties colored grey are ones in which comparisons could not be made.

Four counties experienced production increases for corn in 2022 compared to 2020 despite the drought—Holt, Scottsbluff, Box Butte, and Valley. The state overall had fewer acres planted to corn last year, but the production increases could be the result of more acres being planted in these counties which offset drought-induced yield losses. Or these counties could have experienced isolated weather events in 2020 which reduced production relative to 2022. Counties with the largest production losses were located in the Northeast and Southwest regions of the state. Hitchcock, Boyd, and Furnas Counties had reductions of 63 percent, 58 percent, and 51 percent, respectively. Not surpisingly, counties most affected by the drought were also those in areas labeled as under extreme or exceptional drought.

Figure 3. Difference in Corn Production, 2022 vs. 2020

Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service

Drought’s affect on last year’s soybean production was more jumbled. Nineteen counties produced more soybeans in 2022 relative to 2020 with the increases ranging between 2-66 percent. Over 500,000 additional soybean acres were planted in 2022 compared to 2020, so counties that saw production gains probably also had increased planted acres. On the other hand, 39 counties had production losses with Boyd County experiencing the largest loss of 34 percent. Thurston and Lancaster Counties followed with declines of 29 percent. The gravest production losses were seen in eastern Nebraska where production is largely non-irrigated.

Figure 4. Difference in Soybean Production, 2022 vs. 2020

Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service

The Nebraska drought monitor map still shows the state in the throes of the drought—98 percent of the state is under some form of drought. Soil moisture conditions are undoubtedly poor. Farmers will need plenty of precipitation this spring and during the growing season to avoid another year of production troubles.  

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