Area in extreme drought increases by size of Texas, report says
The map, released Thursday, shows the intensity levels of the drought in all parts of the country.
July 26th, 2012
05:13 PM ET

Area in extreme drought increases by size of Texas, report says

The portion of the country with some level of drought increased only slightly in the last week, but areas at risk for major crop losses and widespread water shortages jumped significantly, according to a report from the National Drought Mitigation Center.

Areas of the contiguous United States under extreme or exceptional drought conditions increased by an area roughly the size of Texas - from 13.5% of the land to 20.5% - in the past seven days, according to the Drought Monitor report released Thursday.

"It's getting to the point where some of the (agricultural) damage is not reversible" in the extreme-drought areas, said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the center. "The damage is done, and even with rain, you're not going to reverse some of these problems, at least not this growing season."

The areas newly put into the extreme category are spread over many states, including parts of Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and South Dakota. (See last week's map, for comparison with the one above.)

Meanwhile, the portion of the Lower 48 states under moderate or worse drought conditions rose slightly in the last week - from 63.54% to 63.86% - putting the contiguous United States in the largest drought by area in the report's 12-year history. This is the fourth consecutive week the Lower 48 set a Drought Monitor record in this category.

A week of very hot and very dry conditions - coming after roughly two months of similar weather - pushed more areas into the extreme or exceptional categories, Fuchs said.

Areas in the "extreme" drought category - the third most severe of four classifications - could see major crop and pasture losses with widespread water shortages, according to the center.

The lower two drought classifications are called moderate (some damage to crops and pastures possible, with some water shortages developing or imminent) and severe (crop or pasture losses likely, with water shortages common).

The highest classification, exceptional, means the area is at risk for widespread crop and pasture losses, with water emergencies.

Unrelenting heat and little to no rainfall across the nation’s heartland are making conditions difficult to overcome. Every state in the country, plus Puerto Rico, has at least a small area shown as abnormally dry or worse, Fuchs said.

Many of the areas that saw the drought intensify in the past week make up the country's corn and soybean belt - disheartening news for those that have already been tremendously affected.

Almost 90% of U.S. corn is grown in an area experiencing drought, and even recent and forecast rainfall will be too late to significantly help this year’s crop. Agriculture Department Secretary Tom Vilsack this week designated 76 additional counties in six states as drought disaster areas, bringing the total for the 2012 crop year to 1,369 counties across 31 states.

He also announced Monday that his department will cut the interest rates on emergency loans for farmers hard-hit by the drought to 2.25% from 3.75%.

On Thursday, Iowa's governor declared a disaster emergency to help farmers deal with the drought.

"The assistance comes in the form of a suspension of state laws and regulations affecting the transport of hay, straw and stover," a release from Gov. Terry Branstad said. "The drought has destroyed or depleted sources of these products that are necessary for livestock production and feed."

It’s not just crops that are suffering from the heat and lack of rainfall. A July 22 report from the Department of Agriculture said that 55% of the country’s pasture and range land was in poor to very poor condition. This is the highest percentage ever noted and is likely to profoundly hurt the nation’s cattle and dairy farmers.

Reports like this could continue, because U.S. forecasts don't offer any reprieve over the next several weeks. A persistent ridge of high pressure over portions of the country has sent the mercury to record levels over recent weeks and months. St. Louis has now seen a record 11 days with high temperatures reaching or exceeding 105 degrees this year, breaking the previous record of 10 days set in 1934, another year of historic heat and drought across the U.S.

Heat records like this will likely continue to fall. Above-normal temperatures are expected to continue through the beginning of August for much of the country, including the Great Plains.

The Drought Monitor map is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and about 350 drought observers across the country.

More on the drought:

Feds offer help to drought-stricken farmers
Farmer in the drought – if you plant it, it might not come
Farmer: 'If you eat, this drought will affect you'
Praying for rain in the Arkansas drought
From the field – tweets from #drought12
How the drought could hit your wallet
Opinion: Why the drought affects me - and you
Hogs feel drought's pinch
Drought forces farmers to sell cattle 


soundoff (234 Responses)
  1. E


    July 27, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. cf

    Farmers are drooling over this news. They'll take us all to the cleaners when they cash in on their taxpayer-funded farm subsidies and FEMA checks. Getting rich off the taxpayers without doing any work, but calling everyone else "socialists" for living off the government. That's the farmer way.

    July 27, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thermion7

      You obviously dont understand the program at all (though i admit its a little complex) –
      In a nutshell – The Federal Government recognizes that the production of crops, the 140 billion dollar export business and American food security all have National Security importance and that the USDA, Department of Interior and others assist in the development of a healthy and balanced mix of agriculture in good and bad growing conditions.

      July 27, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • SPLAT!~

      cf And yet you support them by eating. Hypocrite!

      July 27, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Patrick

    This is being caused by gay marriage and Obama being a muslim, not by global warming which doesn't exist because it don't say nothin' about no global warming in the bible. Yee haw! Jayzus take the wheel!

    July 27, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Actually, I believe global warming is mentinoned in the book of revelation. In a verse mentioning "...if those days were not shortened..." Can't cite chapter and verse. Just saying.

      July 27, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ransom H Thomas

      Obama is a great president, and let the gays be married.

      July 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. donny

    worse summer i can remember. been in the 90s or 100 for last 2 months but we are now getting rain but rains so hard just runs off dont have time to soakin. but better then nothing. i thank god for it.. i feel sorry for the farmers sure wish they get rain.but i guess its to late now to save the crop? now look out for the high prices .. farmers work hard for this..i hope the best for them.

    July 27, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JoePub

    Does anybody remember the dust bowl? Stop trying to make this sound like a brand new phenomena.

    July 27, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • massbytes

      Joe Pub...I am sure the climate scientists forgot about the 30's since droughts happened then...They can't be caused by anything else.

      July 27, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Olaf Big

      No, severe drought is not an entirely new phenomenon, but this is just one of many signs of climate change. None of the extreme weather events takes by itself is exceptional, but the trend is obvious if you add them all up. And don't forget that U.S. population has grown by a factor of three since the dust bowl, our water consumption probably by a factor of ten, but our water resources have not gotten any bigger. It's time to put the old "it has happened before" hat on the hook, and get really-really worried about what we are doing to the planet.

      July 27, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • JoePub

      massbytes. Apparently they did. It seems that some reports have conveniently omitted the 1930's drought. In fact, when you look at some of the charts that are floating around out there, they show the timeline from 1940 onward.

      July 27, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Paul

    I live in an area on the map in this article designate D0 and D1. Corn is growing just fine in the central valley of California.

    July 27, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • massbytes

      With irrigation

      July 27, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ransom H Thomas

    So now do, people who before did not believe in global warming, see how al cores film was right on.

    July 27, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. dd

    Droughts have been occurring for thousands of years. This one is not unexpected. Research data clearly shows periodic drought in many parts of the world. The felony is Obama and Congress requiring that you put corn into your car! Yes, we let people starve because Obama wants to put an efficient bio-fuel in cars. The people are letting Obama starve millions who won't even be able to get grain even if they could afford it. This is the crime of the century!

    July 27, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thermion7

      First off people aren't starving. That is being overdramatic. There is corn.. just 30-40% less of it. the hardest hit section of that will be lost 'potential income' from foreign sales (China, Brazil and Argentina will get a great price for their bumper crops), mainly the farmers will feel the loss of revenue.
      Second... Ethanol production is an additional potential revenue stream, that allowed Corn growers to expand production, it didn't sacrifice revenue from one stream to feed another stream. Ethanol buyers have to pay the same market price, so... farmers dont care who buys... the money is the same.

      July 27, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. 1Thc

    What have they done with the money from the previous years? When they did have a good year did anyone ever think of maybe dropping a few wells incase they had a drought? NO! and why would they, they are no better than the banks. When the going gets tough the government will step in a bail us out so lets no put any emergency measures in place.

    July 27, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thermion7

      Farming is investment intensive. After they had a losing year, they reinvested in quality seed varieties, equipment, labor, transport pesticide, soil consultants, fertilizer storage etc. . – the low interest loans are to get them to the next season without selling out to Con Agra or Monsanto... not to develop infrastructure fo protect against a twice per century event.

      July 27, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. chunk a chunk

    I'm just glad we won't feel the financial impact of global warming in our life time.

    July 27, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Selmers

    How does a draught spread in only a few days? So, if it doesnt rain on me for a week, I can declare a draught?

    July 27, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Leonore H. Dvorkin

    Lose (rhymes with snooze) is the opposite of gain or win. Loose (rhymes with moose) is the opposite of tight.
    Please learn to spell, people, if you are going to post!

    July 27, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Heather

    Corn and other crops are growing just fine here in Oregon. Rivers are full too. We are actually hoping for more sun!

    July 27, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thermion7

      Washington and Oregon will benefit from being able to sell their bumper crops when the price is high.

      July 27, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. booboot0805

    Obama should not allocate more funding to farmers' in need not to offend the GOP. Instead, he should let the folks in the bible belt look toward god to send them relieves.

    July 27, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Olaf Big

      Thank you. This is so insightful! What is the population and area of Oregon as percent of U.S. total?

      July 27, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. booboot0805

    In any case, it's Obama's fault. FOX

    July 27, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
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