The United States is facing the worst drought since the 1950s, with almost two thirds of the continental U.S. experiencing at least moderate drought, reports released Thursday indicated.
According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report, released by the National Drought Mitigation Center, as of Tuesday, 64 percent of the contiguous U.S. is experiencing at least moderate drought, as drought condition expanded for the tenth consecutive week.
The report indicated 42 percent of the United States is in severe, extreme or exceptional drought, and more than 80 percent of the land surface is abnormally dry.
On the same day, another report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also said continental U.S. is facing the worst drought since December 1956.
“Indicators suggest that the 2012 drought is similar to the 1950s drought in extent, pattern, and intensity, although not in duration,” said the NOAA report.
One day prior to the release of the reports, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack described the drought as “the most serious situation” in about 25 years, saying about 1,300 counties across the country had been designated “drought disaster” areas.
Hardest hit is the corn and soybean production in the Midwest over the last three months. The reports said topsoil has dried out and “crops, pastures, and rangeland have deteriorated at a rate rarely seen in the last 18 months.”
Vilsack said at a White House briefing Wednesday that 78 percent of the country’s corn crop is now in areas designated as drought impacted; 77 percent of the soybeans that are being grown is also impacted. He said 38 percent of U.S. corn crop is rated poor to very poor; 30 percent of soybeans rated poor to very poor. He said the situation is likely to have an impact on yield and prices, and as a consequence, food prices are likely to go up in 2013.
What’s troubling is that there’s no immediate relief in sight. The Drought Monitor said drought conditions are not expected to improve and may worsen in the hardest hit areas through July, with dry weather and excessive heat in the country’s midsection.