A severe drought is spreading across the Midwest this summer, resulting in some of the worst conditions in decades and leaving more than a thousand counties designated as natural disaster areas, authorities said.
Farmers in the region are suffering, with pastures for livestock and fields of crops becoming increasingly parched during June, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Many areas in the southern Midwest are reporting the poorest conditions for June since 1988.
The farmers' difficulties come amid a record-setting level of hot, dry weather across the nation.
As of Tuesday, about 61 percent of the contiguous United States (excluding Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico) was experiencing drought conditions, the highest percentage in the 12-year record of the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Unusually high temperatures and little rainfall over the past week have led to "widespread deterioration and expansion of dryness and drought" in the Midwest, northwestern Ohio Valley and southern Great Plains, the drought monitor said.
That has left 1,016 counties in 26 states termed as natural disaster areas, the Department of Agriculture said this week.
A county is generally qualified as a natural disaster area if it has suffered severe drought for eight consecutive weeks. Farmers are then eligible for low interest emergency loans from the Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency.
The past 12 months have been the warmest the United States has experienced since records began in 1895, the climatic data center said.
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