Drought conditions are getting worse in several states, and extreme heat and weeks with little rain have begun to stress corn, soybeans, wheat and livestock in some areas.
The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor recently released by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln says nearly 11 percent of the continental United States is in moderate drought or worse.
The most severe drought area is centered on portions of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Drought plaguing North Dakota farmers and ranchers has worsened over the past week.
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows nearly 8 percent of the state in “exceptional” drought, the highest category. That’s up from 6 percent last week.
All of central and western North Dakota is in some stage of drought, with most areas in severe or extreme drought.
The conditions are ravaging pastures, hay land and crops. The federal government has declared numerous North Dakota counties to be disaster areas, paving the way for federal aid.
Gov. Doug Burgum has declared a drought disaster for counties and tribal reservations experiencing severe, extreme or exceptional drought, along with adjacent counties. That could open up even more aid, including help from the North Dakota National Guard.
The United States Department of Agriculture has designated several counties in those states as areas of natural disaster, paving the way for emergency loans for producers.
Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas also are seeing stressed crops and farm animals.
About half of U.S. spring wheat, 15 percent of corn and 14 percent of soybeans are in drought.