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Arctic weather puts U.S. wheat and livestock markets on alert

Source: Reuters - Fri, 6 Dec 2013 01:50 PM
Author: Reuters
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* Ice worrisome for transportation and winter wheat

* Most of Plains wheat region protected by snow

* Temperature forecasts not as low as previous

CHICAGO, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Cold temperatures, snow and ice forecast for portions of the U.S. Plains and southern Midwest into the weekend threaten some winter wheat and livestock but the biggest issue could be logistical snarls, meteorologists said on Friday.

"The only issues I see are disruption of transportation where snow and ice is falling, that would be my main concern," said John Dee, meteorologist for Global Weather Monitoring.

A mixture of rain, sleet, ice and snow fell across the southern Plains including Texas and extended into the northern U.S. Delta and southeast Midwest overnight on Thursday.

"The ice cover is likely to be up to one inch or more and remain long enough in the northern Delta to lead to some damage to 15 percent of the soft red winter wheat belt," said Joel Widenor, meteorologist for Commodity Weather Group.

Over 225,000 homes and businesses in the Texas and other U.S. South Central states had no electricity Friday morning following severe ice storms starting Thursday night, according to local power companies.

Widenor said wet weather in the southern Midwest over the next two weeks could also lead to excess moisture and damage to the wheat crop from standing water.

Dee said Friday's forecasts indicated temperatures would not be as cold as previous outlooks with readings remaining above zero (degrees Fahrenheit) in the southern plains. "I don't think there will be a serious issue of winterkill," he said.

Some of the hard red winter wheat crop in northwest Kansas and southwest Nebraska may be harmed by the cold snap due to a lack of insulating snow, agricultural meteorologists said.

The abrupt change in temperatures this week from roughly 60 F to near zero F in the Plains states and Midwest led to concerns about stress to livestock but Dee said the lack of wet weather with the cold temperatures would diminish the harm to exposed animals. "There wasn't a lot of precipitation with it so for the most part stress to livestock should be minimal," he said.

Dee and Widenor said most of the Plains winter wheat crop was insulated by blanket of snow which will prevent serious winterkill damage.

"Well below normal temperatures in the next 10 days should only produce readings below zero F in areas with snow cover," Widenor said.

(Reporting by Sam Nelson; Editing by Alden Bentley)

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