Punishing drought in Midwest shows no sign of abating
Broiling heat blanketed much of the U.S. Midwest again on Tuesday, exacerbating the region's worst drought in more than 50 years and devastating corn, soy and other vital crops.
Across the country's agricultural heartland, elected officials met with farmers and ranchers affected by the growing disaster promising government relief.
In Missouri, Governor Jay Nixon announced on Tuesday that all 114 counties in the state have been designated as natural disaster areas due to the drought, making farmers eligible for government loans or other assistance.
Before Tuesday, 17 counties had received disaster status.
In Iowa, Governor Terry Branstad convened a hearing to discuss the drought and its effect on the state's pork industry, which relies heavily on corn feed.
"It's important that we do all we can to help people through this difficult time," Branstad told local radio station KILJ. "And obviously more rain would help."
Although weather forecasters said some parts of the parched region might get some rain next week and help pull corn prices off near-record highs, analysts slashed their forecasts for U.S. corn production by another 7 percent on Tuesday, a Reuters poll found.
From Chicago to St. Louis to Omaha, Nebraska, temperatures eclipsed 100 Fahrenheit (37.8 Celsius) and the National Weather Service issued heat advisories across Midwest and mid-Atlantic states.
Many of the heat advisories don't expire until next week. Temperatures in Kansas City, Kansas, for instance, are expected to hit 104 F (40 C) on Wednesday. In Topeka, the intense heat is drying up soil so far beneath the surface that water lines are cracking.
So far this month, 2,202 heat records have been broken across the United States and another 787 tied, according to the National Climatic Data Center.
Another 14 U.S. cities set new record highs by 8 p.m. EDT (0000 GMT) on Tuesday, according to Accuweather.com, including St. Louis, Milwaukee, Detroit and Syracuse, which all topped out above 100 F.
Those temperatures have contributed to the worst drought since 1956, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a report posted on its website.
From Crisis to Horror Story
About 55 percent of the contiguous United States is in a drought, just as corn plants should be pollinating, a period when adequate moisture is crucial. The United States ships more than half of all world exports of corn, which is made into dozens of products, from starch and ethanol to livestock feed.
"We're moving from a crisis to a horror story," said Purdue University agronomist Tony Vyn. "I see an increasing number of fields that will produce zero grain."