Two-Thirds of U.S. Battling Worst Drought in More than 50 Years

Extreme drought conditions continue to plague the nation as the worst drought in more than half a century has now claimed more than two-thirds of the contiguous United States. One-fifth of the regions are classified as “extreme drought,” according to climate experts.

States including Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa, which are the nation’s top corn and soybean producers, have seen temperatures five to 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) above normal with little to no rainfall. More than 30 percent of the Midwest states are experiencing extreme droughts and five percent are experiencing “exceptional drought”—the worst classification, which includes crop and pasture losses along with severe water shortages affecting public reservoirs, wells and streams.

Twenty-four percent of Southern states including Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, where a large percentage of the nation’s wheat and cattle are produced, are also experiencing extreme drought conditions. Nearly half of Arkansas is now under the “exceptional drought” condition classification.

The USDA announced last week that it would help the struggling farmers and ranchers by opening up 3.8 million acres of conservation land for hay and grazing. Secretary Vilsack also announced that crop insurers would provide farmers a 30-day grace period on their insurance premiums in 2012.

But the government assistance may not be enough. Fears that the financial fallout as a result of the pending food shortages could lead to another recession are widespread. Illinois has already reported that more than 70 percent of corn and nearly 60 percent of the state’s soybean acreage is considered poor or very poor.

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