WALTONVILLE, Ill. | The nation’s widest drought in decades is spreading, with more than half of the continental United States now in some stage of drought and most of the rest enduring abnormally dry conditions.
Only in the 1930s and the 1950s has a drought covered more land, according to federal figures released Monday. So far, there’s little risk of a Dust Bowl-type catastrophe, but crop losses could mount if rain doesn’t come soon.
In its monthly drought report, the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., announced that 55 percent of the country was in a moderate to extreme drought at the end of June. The parched conditions expanded last month in the West, the Great Plains and the Midwest, fueled by the 14th warmest and 10th driest June on record, the report said.
Topsoil has turned dry while “crops, pastures and rangeland have deteriorated at a rate rarely seen in the last 18 years,” the report said.
The percentage of affected land is the largest since December 1956, when 58 percent of the country was covered by drought, and it rivals even some years in the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s, though experts point out that this year’s weather has been milder than that period, and farming practices have been vastly improved since then.
In southern Illinois, Kenny Brummer has lost 800 acres of corn that he grows to feed his 400 head of cattle and 30,000 hogs. Now he’s scrambling to find hundreds of thousands of bushels of replacement feed.
“Where am I going to get that from? You have concerns about it every morning when you wake up,” said Brummer, who farms near Waltonville. “The drought is bad, but that’s just half of the problem on this farm.”
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