There have been other years in which northwest Iowa farmer Jim Stillman finished planting sooner than he did this year.

Still, the 2012 growing season got off to a fast start for him and many other U.S. soybean farmers due to warm, dry weather. For many critical growing areas of the United States, those weather conditions continue.

“We started out dry, had a little rainy period, which delayed us a little bit, but right now, many of us need rain,” says Stillman, who serves as vice-chair of the United Soybean Board (USB).

National Weather Service data shows parts of the two biggest U.S. soybean-producing states, including Stillman’s home state and neighboring Illinois, have experienced less than half of the precipitation they normally receive by this time of the year.

Stillman says he and other soy checkoff farmer-directors hope conditions improve so they have a big harvest that can help meet strong global demand for U.S. soy.

“Demand for soybeans right now is great,” says Stillman. “China and other countries want to buy, and our biggest customers here in the United States continue to feed a lot of poultry and hogs.”

At USB’s meeting in late February, the organization’s secretary, Jim Call, a soybean farmer from southwest Minnesota, asked each farmer-director to indicate “wet, dry or normal,” when he conducted roll call.

At that time, only about five out of the 69 farmers who voluntarily serve on USB indicated “normal,” with the remaining half either indicating conditions on their farms at that time were “wet” or “dry.”

USB, which is responsible for overseeing farmer-funded U.S. soy research efforts, holds its next meeting July 17-20 in Williamsburg, Va.