U.S. officials say cooler weather and recent rain showers in the drought-stricken Midwest have largely stabilized crop conditions, but add that the drought is not over.
The U.S. Agriculture Department said in a statement Tuesday that rainfall has been heaviest in the eastern Corn Belt, including Michigan and Ohio, and that nearly all of the Midwest has received some precipitation. The USDA's weekly crop progress report, released Monday, showed crop conditions improved slightly, but that crop ratings remain at their lowest levels since the last serious drought in 1988.
Officials say complete recovery from a drought not only requires the change of seasons, but significant rainfall. The USDA says 59 percent of U.S. rangeland and pastures are rated in very poor to poor condition.
Authorities say two cold fronts combined are expected to bring 5 centimeters of rain across sections of the South, East, and lower Midwest this week. Lighter amounts of rainfall are forecast for the northern and central Plains and the Upper Midwest. Cooler temperatures are also forecast for east of the Rockies in the coming days.
On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama toured an Iowa family farm which has been affected by the drought.
The Obama administration announced that the federal government will purchase up to $170 million worth of meat and fish, the second initiative this month aimed at helping farmers and ranchers affected by the drought in the Midwest. The food purchases will go toward food banks and other nutrition assistance programs.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will provide millions of dollars in assistance to restore livestock lands affected by the drought. Obama has urged Congress to pass a bill to help the farmers and ranchers respond to natural disasters.