More precipitation expected but not enough to dent the drought

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Minnesota may see more moisture than usual for the next few months, but probably not enough to chase away the drought that has taken hold of the state.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center issued an extended outlook for the period through the end of April.

A meteorologist tells MPR the next few months should bring a little more precipitation than usual to Minnesota, but cautions against expecting "a major drought-buster event."

Indeed, for much of the Midwest the drought may get worse. The dry area extends from Texas into Canada. Most of the meteorologists surveyed by Bloomberg expect the drought will intensify during the planting season. One thinks the geographic center of the drought will move northward this year, pinning it at Redwood Falls as opposed to last year's Grand Island, Nebraska.

Dry ground makes ripples, though. The drought's effects were a key factor in Cargill's announcement Thursday that it will close one of its Texas beef processing plants on Feb. 1st. Last summer's diminished corn and hay crops have driven up the cost of animal feed, prompting many ranchers to thin their herds. Minnetonka-based Cargill says the nation's cattle herd is at its smallest in more than 60 years. The indefinite idling of the Plainview plant will throw 2,000 Texans out of work.

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