While the drought no longer dominates headlines, it remains a serious concern for farmers across the U.S. Plains and western Midwest.

Dry weather conditions persist and, with only light showers and snowfall on the immediate horizon for many, farmers may encounter fields suffering from depleted subsoil moisture when planting begins across the central United States in about 10 weeks.

“Once temperatures drop, public attention shifts away from the drought conditions that persist,” said National Corn Growers Association President Pam Johnson. “News stories have begun speaking of the drought of 2012 as if it were in the past.

“But, for many farmers, the drought has not ended and there is no relief in sight. While facing the possibility of another dry year, farmers must focus on advocating for the risk management tools that they need by pushing their legislators to pass a new five-year farm bill.”

Forecasts from a variety of sources indicate the drought may impact many farmers for the foreseeable future.

”The Plains and the northwest Midwest will still struggle with drought, there’s not a whole lot of relief seen,” said John Dee, meteorologist for Global Weather Monitor, in a recent Reuters interview.

The most recent update of the U.S. drought monitor, which captures conditions through Jan. 22, indicates that roughly 57.64 percent of the contiguous United States was in at least moderate drought. While this does show an improvement from 58.87 percent a week earlier, a large percentage of the western Corn Belt remains in severe to exceptional drought.

DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Mike Palmerino sees hardly any moisture benefit for the western Corn Belt in the final few weeks of winter.

“West of the Mississippi, I don’t know when the next chance for significant precipitation will be,” Palmerino said. “You could make a case that maybe we’re not looking at much west of the Mississippi all the way through February.”