Early season weather problems may wipe out the hay production increase that was predicted for the U.S. earlier in the year.

In the Midwest and parts of the Northeast, the cool, damp spring delayed the first alfalfa cutting by up to three weeks. Growers report below-normal yields, although the quality is generally good. That’s despite the fact that weeds, such as dandelions, were abundant in many fields.

But drought persists in much of the West and Deep South. Non-irrigated crops are stressed, and irrigation water may run short in some areas. In New Mexico for example, many growers may only get two cuttings before water runs out. Some plowed down marginal alfalfa fields, saving their water allocations for the good fields. Hay production is expected to be at least 20% below normal in that state.

Earlier, USDA projected that U.S. farmers will harvest just over 63.7 million acres of all types of hay this year, 200,000 acres more than in 2001. The total amount of hay stored on U.S. farms on May 1 was put at 22.5 million tons, up from 21.1 million tons on May 1, 2001, but well below the 28.8 million tons in storage on that date the previous year.