Temperature records continued to fall last week in the grip of a nationwide heat wave that saw cattle dropping in feedlots, municipal utility consumption soaring to new heights and people getting grumpier than a toothless rattlesnake. Spun differently, soil and crop conditions continue to deteriorate across big chunks of the nation. Even in areas of drought that have received recent rains, while welcome, it's little more than window-dressing.

For the week ending July 18, according to the National Ag Statistics Service:

  • Corn -- 51% is at or beyond the silking stage, which is 5% ahead of last year and 13% ahead of average. Silking was reported at or ahead of normal in all states but Indiana. 6% has entered the dough stage, which is on par with last year and the five-year average. 62% is rated Good or better, compared to 55% last year.
  • Soybeans -- Blooming has begun on 60% of the acreage, 1% behind last year, but 12% ahead of normal. 16% was setting pods, 1% ahead of last year and 5% ahead of normal. 57% is rated Good or better; 53% was at the same time last year.
  • Winter wheat -- 80% of the acreage has been harvested. That's 4% ahead of last year and 7% ahead of the normal pace.
  • Spring wheat -- 97% of the crop is at or beyond the heading stage, which is 7% ahead of last year and 11% ahead of the five-year average. 34% is rated Good or better, compared to 75% last year.
  • Barley -- Heading advanced to 86%, compared to 87% at this time last year and 85% for normal. 52% is rated Good or better, compared to 80% last year.
  • Sorghum -- 37% of the acreage is in the heading stage, which is 12% ahead of last year and 9% ahead of average. 23% was at or beyond turning color, 7% ahead of last year and ahead of normal. 42% is ranked Good or better, compared to 57% last year.
  • Oats -- 18% of the acreage is harvested, which is 1% ahead of last year and 4% ahead of average. 33% is rated Good or better, compared to 64% last year.
  • Pasture -- 24% is rated Good and 4% is rated Excellent, compared to 34% and 7%, respectively last year. 23% is rated Poor and 18% is ranked Very Poor, compared to 17% and 9% respectively at the same time last year.
States with the worst pasture conditions -- at least 30% of the acreage rated poor or worse -- include: Alabama (83%); Arizona (81%); Arkansas (33%); Colorado (65%); Georgia (62%); Iowa (41%); Kansas (35%); Louisiana (30%); Michigan (36%); Mississippi (60%); Missouri (52%); Nebraska (58%); New Mexico (70%); North Dakota (62%); Oklahoma (61%); South Dakota (52%); Texas (63%); Wisconsin (43%); Wyoming (63%).

States with the lushest pasture conditions -- at least 40% rated good or better -- include: Idaho (78%); Illinois (46%); Indiana (71%); Kentucky (66%); Maine (79%); Maryland (61%); Michigan (46%); Nevada (42%); New York (66%); North Carolina (56%); Ohio (72%); Oregon (53%); Pennsylvania (68%); South Carolina (41%); Tennessee (46%); Utah (50%); Virginia (58%); Washington (83%); West Virginia (66%).