SAINT LOUIS — Dry conditions have worsened in the key US farming states of Kansas and Nebraska as the worst US drought in decades continues, the latest national report said Thursday.
The US Drought Monitor said recent rains helped some farming states, but the land across the contiguous US — aside from Alaska and Hawaii — under some form of drought was at 61.8 per cent as of Tuesday.
That was a drop of less than 1 per cent from the previous week.
The land under extreme or exceptional drought — the two worst classifications — also eased to 23.68 per cent from 24.14 per cent.
Federal weather forecasters said Thursday the drought appeared to be levelling off, although it was likely to continue at least through November.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Centre Forecasters previously had predicted the drought would linger through October.
Worries continue over rising food prices in the US and around the world. The US is by far the leading global corn producer and is the top producer of soybeans and wheat. All have been hit hard.
While US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said he is optimistic the US would continue meeting global demand for grain, the United Nations has warned of rising food prices.
Effects go beyond the crops themselves. Meat producers have been hurt by the rising cost of feed, and experts expect that prices of processed food on grocery store shelves will go up in coming months.
Storms rolled through swathes of the nation’s midsection last week, but rainfall so late in the growing season might not meaningfully improve yield expectations that the government has downgraded for two straight months.
“Other areas, such as the Southern and Central Plains, were not as lucky and continued to dry out,” the National Climatic Data Centre’s Michael Brewer wrote in Thursday’s update.
In Iowa, the nation’s leader in corn production, the report said the land in extreme or exceptional drought dropped 7 percentage points to 62.05 per cent over the past week.
But the amount of Nebraska in exceptional drought jumped 19 percentage points to 22.5 per cent. That number in Kansas rose from 38.6 per cent last week to 63.3 per cent now.
Iowa farmers are expected to bring in 19 per cent less corn than last year, the US Department of Agriculture estimated earlier this week.
The department forecast the nation’s biggest harvest ever in the spring, when farmers planted the most acres of corn since 1937. But the agency cut its estimate a month ago and again last Friday, saying it now expects the nation to produce the least amount since 2006.
If that estimate holds, the US government says it will be enough to meet the world’s needs and ensure there are no shortages.
But experts say food prices will almost certainly climb, as corn is a widely used ingredient found in many products including cosmetics, cereal, colas and candy bars.