A new spring outlook released by the National Weather Service has bad news for farmers who’ve been hoping three or four years of drought would let up. Mark Svoboda at the National Drought Mitigation Center says we’re in an active cycle of widespread drought. He says in any given year you’ll see about 10-15% of the U.S. in a drought, but lately he says we’re seeing 40-percent of the country in drought. That’s been the case since the mid-1990s and the climatologist says it shows no signs of reversing yet. In Iowa over the last year, he says there’s been a pretty good short- and long-term recovery process starting with the beginning of the “recharge season” last October. ) Going back more than a year, there is residual dryness especially in southwest and northwest Iowa, but overall he sees improvement. In western Iowa, and out in Nebraska, things are likely to remain dry this summer because of the stubborn drought in states farther west. Svoboda says there’s been a long “draw-down” as rain fails to refill reservoirs and streams and the result of that is less groundwater, over a longer 3-5 year period. Still, the dry spell is not the worst of the century. He says the Dust Bowl years were a major drought for this part of the country, though the fifties were probably even worse to our south, in Texas, Oklahoma and parts of Kansas. He says you have to be optimistic to be a farmer. He says we’ve done a lot of things to conserve soil and groundwater, and you hope to mitigate the impacts of drought, but the bottom line is Mother Nature could throw that kind of curve ball and there’s nothing you can do about that. The U.S. Spring 2004 outlook is on the weather service site, www.noaa.gov