Our Worst Drought Disaster Ever Gets ... Bigger

Dairy, meat prices are headed through the roof
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2012 6:37 AM CDT
Our Worst Drought Disaster Ever Expands
The exposed bottom of the Mississippi River is baked and cracked by extreme heat and lack of rain Tuesday, July 17, 2012 near St. Louis.   (AP Photo/Robert Ray)

With severe drought cracking parched fields across the nation, the Agriculture Department has expanded the largest disaster area declared in its history, adding 39 new counties in eight states to its list, reports the Wall Street Journal. The current tally sits at 1,297 counties in 29 states. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack called the situation "the most serious we've had probably in 25 years across the country." The move does little save make farmers eligible for cheap emergency federal loans, and Vilsack called on Congress to move, acknowledging that the tools in his box are "somewhat limited."

Lest one think severe drought only affects corn farmers in Iowa, the ramifications are dire: With corn crops withering, farmers are paying through the nose to feed livestock, and high temps simultaneously mean a falloff in dairy production, which trickles down to a heftier supermarket tab for Americans. Cheese and milk prices will spike first, followed by corn and meat, notes USA Today. And while you probably won't end up "standing in line to get milk at the dairy counter," as one expert says, you also "might not want it at the price it's selling at." Further, "you'll see less cheese on pizzas." (More drought stories.)

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