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Midwest Farmers Battling Worst US Drought in Generation

Midwest Farmers Battling Worst Drought in Generationi
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Kane Farabaugh
July 17, 2012
Record high temperatures and a lack of rainfall are creating the worst drought conditions for U.S. farmers in a generation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared more than 1000 counties in 26 states natural disaster areas as crops there deteriorate. VOA's Kane Farabaugh has more from Illinois, one of the hardest-hit states.
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Kane Farabaugh
BLOOMINGTON, Illinois — Record high temperatures and a lack of rainfall are creating the worst drought conditions for U.S. farmers in a generation.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared more than 1,000 counties in 26 states natural disaster areas as crops there deteriorate.

In this year's record setting heat under the hot summer sun, McLean County Illinois farmer Matt Hughes' crops are wilting.

Each day without rainclouds brings new disappointment and worry for Hughes.

"The crop I planted right now - I have more invested in this crop than any other crop in my life," he said.

Hughes says that's because with commodity prices at all-time highs, so is the cost of seed and fertilizer.

Now, he's watching his potential profits evaporate.

"This is the one year that can make or break a lot of farmers," added Hughes.

Farmers in Illinois, one of the top corn and soybean producing states in the country, are facing the worst drought conditions in decades.

Part of the corn crop in southern Illinois is already beyond salvage, and the problem is spreading, says Illinois Farm Bureau president Philip Nelson.

"I will tell you from north to south and east to west, this corn crop is in severe trouble and in dire need of a healthy amount of rainfall," Nelson noted.

June was one of the driest months on record in many parts of the country, depriving corn stalks of much needed water during pollination.

"We've got over 50 percent of the corn crop in Illinois that's in poor or very poor condition. There are only two states worse than that by the statistics service and that's Missouri and Kentucky," Nelson added.

Nelson says the poor crop has a ripple effect on other farmers throughout the country.

"The pork is the biggest user of soybean products.  Corn, its biggest user is beef cattle.  So with all due respect, everybody keeps an eye on what type of crop you are raising because it really affects the bottom line of livestock producers in this state," said Nelson.

Whatever the bottom line is for Matt Hughes is now beyond his control.

"This is the most productive ground in the world, it's not like I'm going to make a choice to not produce it because I think we're going to have a drought.  We produce it, and we take what we can get," said Hughes.

What Hughes is not getting is help from meteorologists.  They only predict a few scattered showers in the coming weeks.

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