Another Trying Season, La Nina Now Through Summer

The good folks over at the National Weather Service have posted that La Nina, the ENSO negative Pacific Ocean pattern is here to stay for a threepeat.

What this typically means for us in the US is that we are looking at drought. More drought. From the Texas South to the Dakota’s. This also means more rainfall in northern spots, flooding in the Ohio River Valley, much like we saw in Tennessee last year, and an uptick in hurricane activity coming off the gulf.

El Nino is the opposite positive effect that pushes atmospheric waves over the Rockies to descind down into the plains to convect the warm, moist Gulf onshore flows. We see this in Texas as regular fronts with squalls of good soaking rains. In the Corn Belt, El Nino reduces the chances for tornadic breakouts per research by Allen, Tippet, and Sobel.

La Nina setting up much as it has the past two cycles unfortunately increases the already drought stricken West and Southern US.

A third year of La Nina isn’t unprecedented, this has happened in 1973-76, and most recently in 1998-2001. What is different is that the current irrigated versus rainfed croppage spread is widening as more land needs to be irrigated to produce more bushels of beans and corn.

This metric also shows how we have been able to use Bt (blight tolerant), Dt (drought tolerant), and other genetically modified strains of silage to achieve more with less in the overall production. To note, we are actually in a holding pattern from irrigation draws and down from peak freshwater usage.

In looking at the initial data this year, and collectively sewing prior years experience, I expect this year to be a repeat of last year, where yields are up, mostly because commodities prices are at all time highs. Take for example the futures market on May ’22 corn:

Because corn and soybeans make up a significant share of the oils markets, ethanol, and are primaries in livestock silage feed, the expectation is that food inflation is likely to get worse. As I sit now, it is hard to exactly forecast without knowing the planted report from the USDA, as the seed drilling has only begun in the south and as the frost line moves north, more farmers wait to get seed in the ground likely next month. There is a call for more producers to plant more acres, but last year we were at an almost all time high.

Fortunately, what we are seeing on the ground is a good amount of activity. Drought will likely add some headwinds as well as the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. We will now sacrifice the Ancient Jackfruit to the rain gods.