By Sam Nelson
(Reuters) - Crop-friendly rainfall and snow were moving across drought-stricken areas of the U.S. Plains hard red winter wheat region at mid-week, providing much-needed relief ahead of the growing season for the 2013 crop, an agricultural meteorologist said on Wednesday.
"Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado now have the chance for two shower events over the next two weeks that would offer some improvement in topsoil moisture," said Commodity Weather Group (CWG) meteorologist Joel Widenor.
He said rain and snow continued across Oklahoma and Texas on Tuesday, with amounts up to half an inch. Heavy rains continued in parts of cotton and soft red winter wheat areas in Georgia and Alabama, and more rain is expected over the next two weeks.
CWG said there were no signs of winter cold weather harm to U.S. crops.
"The coldest weather occurs this weekend for Florida citrus and at the end of the 10-day forecast period for Plains wheat, but damage risks are low, Widenor said.
A modest improvement is expected in the Drought Monitor report due to be released on Thursday. Last Thursday, the weekly report showed harsh drought conditions had expanded in key U.S. farm states in the nation's midsection.
The weekly analysis of drought conditions is put together by a consortium of state and federal climate experts.
The Plains states are key crop production areas, particularly for hard red winter wheat, an important bread-making crop. They are also critical areas for cattle and other livestock production.
(Additional reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; editing by John Wallace)