Most Widespread U.S. Drought in 24 Years
Monday, July 16, 2012
Corn areas experiencing drought (graphic: USDA)
In yet another likely sign of the advance of man-made global warming, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) last week declared that 1,016 counties in 26 states are natural-disaster areas, the agency’s biggest such declaration ever, as drought parches much of the country, especially the nation’s Midwestern breadbasket. The declaration allows farmers and ranchers in the affected counties to apply for low-interest disaster-recovery loans, which USDA says will be processed more quickly under new rules.
The drought, which now covers most of the Midwest, the Southwest and the Southeast, has arisen in the wake of the warmest spring on record, low rainfall and a scorching month of June, when more than 170 all-time high temperature records were set or tied across the country. Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that the U.S. has had its warmest year-to-date and warmest 12-month period on record. The Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and far northern Great Plans, including most of Iowa (the biggest U.S. corn producer) have not yet been hit by drought and are not included in the disaster declaration.
The U.S. corn crop, the world’s largest, is expected to suffer a serious blow. As of July 8, only about 40% of the U.S. corn in the field was in good or excellent condition, down from 48% percent a week before and the lowest for early July since the drought of 1988. In fact, about 78% of the corn growing in the U.S. is located in areas experiencing drought conditions. As a result, and with more hot and dry weather expected, USDA’s World Agricultural Outlook Board recently cut its estimate for the 2012 U.S. corn crop by 12%, or 1.82 billion bushels.
Ranchers are also feeling the effects of the drought. As pastures turn brown and water sources dry up, more ranch owners are being forced to sell parts of their herds. For example, in June, according to The New York Times, the Torrington Livestock Markets in Wyoming auctioned off 17,144 head of cattle compared to 3,336 for the same month last year.
To Learn More:
Drought Prompts Natural Disaster Declaration in 26 States (by Andrew Freedman, Climate Central)
Disaster Declared in 26 States as Drought Sears U.S. (by Alan Bjerga, Bloomberg News)
Heat Leaves Ranchers a Stark Option: Sell (by Jack Healy, AllGov)
USDA Announces Streamlined Disaster Designation Process with Lower Emergency Loan Rates and Greater CRP Flexibility in Disaster Areas (USDA)
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