The North Carolina Forest Service is urging residents to be safe and avoid burning yard waste and other debris until the state gets some significant rain.
Humidity levels across the state are low, and projected increases in moisture may not be enough to prevent fuels from igniting if an ember lands among forest debris. There have been more than 600 wildfires across the state in November, according to Forest Service statistics. Debris burning is the No. 1 cause of wildfires in North Carolina.
Moderate Drought Conditions in South Carolina Increase
In the latest drought monitor released Thursday on data collected through Tuesday at 7:00 am Eastern time, in South Carolina, all of the state remains in abnormally dry conditions. In the moderate category, dryness has increased from little more than 49% of the state last week to just over 76% this week. The severe drought category increased from just shy of 7% last week to more than 16% this week, and the extreme drought category stayed about the same, just shy of 1%.
Nation’s Corn Supplies Continue to Dwindle
U.S. corn supplies continue to dwindle – aggravated by strong domestic demand that’s also pressuring wheat prices. Drought-ravaged U.S. corn production is off 13-percent – feed, food and export demand remains strong. Ethanol is now using almost half of depleted production – and the U.S. is actually importing 100-million bushels of corn.
USDA Grains Analyst Jerry Norton…
“We are expecting to import a record amount of corn this year just because of where the center of the drought was in the corn belt.”
Norton says Brazil is supplying the needed corn to the U.S. at competitive prices. U.S. prices are now forecast at a record $7.60 a bushel.
Norton says another big market driver is ethanol…
“We are forecasting this year to use about 4.5 billion bushels of corn in the ethanol production, that is down from about 5 billion that last few years. We are seeing some decline just because the margins are not as favorable.”
Norton doubts EPA’s recent Renewable Fuel Standard waiver denial has much to do with high corn prices – rather U.S. fuel demand requires large amounts of ethanol.
New Crop Insurance Premium Rates Set by USDA’s RMA
USDA’s Risk Management Agency has announced it will continue to update crop insurance premiums for corn, soybeans, grain sorghum, spring wheat, rice and cotton. USDA Risk Management Agency Administrator Bill Murphy talks about the changes coming on how crop insurance premium rates are set following an independent study and peer review process.
“This year we will go ahead with the corn and soybeans and do the revised methodology with the wheat, cotton, rice, grain sorghum and canola. Cotton and grain sorghum will have little change in nationwide premium collected. With these new rates its important that growers take time and visit with their agents.”
Revised rates for corn and soybeans were offered in most counties in 2012. In 2013 – revised rates for grain sorghum, spring wheat, rice and cotton will be available.
Savannah River Channel in Mediation
Two days of court-ordered mediation got under way in a federal lawsuit challenging the $650 million deepening of the Savannah River shipping channel. Attorneys for both sides met Thursday and again today in Charleston in sessions overseen by former South Carolina U.S. Rep. John Spratt.
Environmental groups say the deepening needs a South Carolina pollution permit because the dredging will remove toxic cadmium and deposit it on the South Carolina shore.
The state Supreme Court last month invalidated a federal clean water certification issued by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.