According to the latest Drought Monitor report, 50 percent of the country is considered in moderate or worse drought. The hardest hit areas remain west of the Mississippi River, encompassing a large swath stretching from Iowa farmland to the California coast.
Drought on the Plains & Midwest
Few in the region are left untouched by this year’s drought, with extreme dryness and moderate drought resonating across much of the Northern Plains and into the Midwest. Most of the worst of the drought is confined to the southern Plains, primarily Texas and Oklahoma.
Forty-nine percent of Texas and 54 percent of Oklahoma are in severe or worse drought, the highest levels of drought seen in six months and one year, respectively.
Drought has continued to deepen in these states over much of the last month, impacting many of the state’s key crops. The latest Crop Progress report showed more than 60 percent of wheat in both states are in poor or very poor condition.
But crops aren’t the only concern linger in the Lone Star State. AgriMoney reports that farmland investment growth has been particularly week in the region, with full-year return on farmland investment falling to 7.9 percent from 12 percent for 2013. This marks the “lowest total return” of any region.
The National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries points that farmland prices fell marginally during the first quarter of 2014.
California drought hits new high
For the first time in 15 years, 100 percent of California is in some degree of drought. The majority of the state – 77 percent – are in extreme or exceptional drought.
“This is a really serious situation here in California and people need to be cognizant of that and start conserving water as much as they can,” said Jayme Laber, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service who is part of a team of scientists who contribute to the weekly drought monitor told the Los Angeles Times.
The lack of substantial precipitation over the last three rain seasons has affected every part of the state, "some worse than others," Laber said.
The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook shows a dry, hot spring turning into a dry, hot summer with no major drought relief seen through the end of July; however, the return of El Niño could bring welcomed precipitation to quench thirsty farmland.