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Drought Worsens In Several States, Agriculture Affected (Photos)

| by Selena Darlim

California may have recovered from the worst of its drought, but it is nowhere near over in the U.S.

Several states worsened in drought conditions due to high temperatures and low rainfall, according to a report released on July 27. The dry conditions are expected to take a toll on agriculture, which could ultimately result in higher prices at the grocery store.

The U.S. Drought Monitor released by the University of Nebraska - Lincoln revealed that 11 percent of the continental U.S. is in moderate drought or worse, with the majority concentrated in the western half of the nation, according to CBS News.

The hardest-hit states are Montana and the Dakotas.

Montana's exceptional drought increased by 10 points in one week, according to the Drought Monitor, with nearly 12 percent of the state in exceptional drought. Another 24 percent is under extreme drought conditions, AgWeb reports.

In North Dakota, close to 8 percent of the state is in exceptional drought and 45 percent is in extreme drought. Areas of extreme drought increased by 5 percent, according to The Bismarck Tribune.

South Dakota's drought shrank 2 percent in size, but deepened in its severity -- with the area of extreme drought growing from 11 to 15 percent in a week, Capital Journal reports. More than 80 percent of all of South Dakota is under at least moderate drought; however, no areas are considered exceptional.

State and county emergency declarations in the Dakotas prompted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to issue its own emergency, The Bismarck Tribune reports. The declaration will allow the transport of livestock and crop-related supplies into and out of the two states.

"We cannot afford delays on the delivery of relief during such a severe disaster," said Republican Sen. John Hoeven, Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee chairman. "By easing the limits on transporting hay, feed and livestock, we are helping ensure our ag producers can access the goods and services they need to respond to this drought."

Farm Rescue, a nonprofit organization that provides aid to farmers, will send free hay from donors to livestock owners in need in Montana and the Dakotas, Capital Journal notes.

The Drought Monitor report, written by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's meteorologist Richard Heim, pointed out the drought's effect on agriculture.

The report says about half of the nation's spring wheat and 13 percent of winter wheat is in drought, according to CBS News. Corn and soybean supplies have also been affected, with about 15 and 14 percent of the respective crops in drought conditions.

Doug Goehring, commissioner of agriculture for North Dakota, noted that the drought is more severe than it has been in the recent past: "There have been people in this business for five decades who have said they have never seen conditions like this."

North Dakota is a leading producer of many of the nation's largest crops, including wheat, beans and canola for vegetable oil. Due to the drought, Goehring said consumers can expect the prices of those items to go up.

Other states with progressing drought conditions are Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and local authorities have declared disasters in a number of counties in these states, opening them up to receive emergency loans and assistance from the state, according to CBS News.

Sources: CBS News, AgWeb, The Bismarck Tribune, Capital Journal / Photo Credit: Tim J Keegan/Flickr, U.S. Drought Monitor via AgWeb, U.S. Drought Monitor via The Bismarck Tribune

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