The Department of Agriculture has declared that 1,000 counties in 26 states are natural disaster areas because of drought conditions. It is the largest natural disaster in American history, dwarfing even the famous Dustbowl of the 1930s.
By making this declaration, the DoA has made it possible for farmers and ranchers to access federal assistance, including low-interest emergency loans for things like animal feed, loan and mortgage payments and buying seeds for the next planting season.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said on Wednesday, “Agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy. We need to be cognizant of the fact that drought and weather conditions have severely impacted farmers around the country.”
We have seen the impact of this drought in the wildfires that have ravaged the western mountain states. According to the U. S. Drought Monitor, 56% of America is in drought conditions and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration January through June of 2012 was “the warmest first half of any year on record in the contiguous United States.” The average temperature was 52.9° Fahrenheit, 4.5° above the normal average. Record temperatures were set in 28 states east of the Rockies during that six months. Just in June, more than 170 temperature records were broken or tied, with temperatures hitting 118° in Norton, Kansas, on June 28, and 115° in Red Willow, Nebraska, on June 26. The last time temperatures in Nebraska were that high was 1932, the year of the first massive dust storms that presaged the Dust Bowl crisis of later in the decade.
It’s bad enough the United States is deep in the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We really don’t need a repeat of the second major crisis of the 1930s.