As the drought in the nation’s heartland reaches well into month five, producers are ready to issue an eviction notice. Nearly two-thirds of the contiguous United States is in moderate or worse drought, and there are few signs of long-term relief on the horizon. The Drought Monitor again shows no improvement in conditions.
"Even if it rains tomorrow, the consequences of this drought will be felt for years to come," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said this week.
Farm Belt continues to struggle
The drought crept slowly northward through late summer and early autumn, and after the remnants of Hurricane Isaac drenched areas of the Midwest, drought conditions only intensified in the High Plains. In just three months, exceptional drought from Kansas into the Dakotas jumped from 1 percent to 28 percent this week.
This week the report showed that 96 percent of Kansas and 98 percent of Nebraska are in extreme to exceptional drought, making both of these key farm states the worst in the country. See how your state is doing here.
Doug Kluck, regional climate services director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told Reuters that dry spells can run for several years, though it is impossible to forecast if there will be drought in 2013.
"Without a soaking rain, things are not going to get better quick," Kluck told Reuters reporters. "I don't mean to be a black cloud, but from a responsible point of view you need to be prepared for the worst."
A significant amount of moisture – whether rain or snow – is necessary to quench the drought. Mark Svoboda, National Drought Mitigation Center climatologist, told AgriTalk host Mike Adams that the rainfall deficits felt across the heartland couldn’t have come at a worse time.
“Overall, we’re still looking at large areas of the Corn Belt with eight- to 12-inch deficits,” Svoboda says. “We would like to get six to eight inches of moisture in the soil profile before next spring. Trouble is that it is the dry time of year and we don’t expect to see a lot of rainfall.”