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USDA Declares 'Natural Disaster' in 26 States as Drought Devastates

Common Dreams staff

The US Department of Agriculture declared a natural disaster on Thursday as a widespread drought stretched over 1,016 counties in 26 states, covering over half the country. The natural disaster is said to be the largest in US history due to its breadth.

The declaration will initiate a series of emergency loans for farmers in drought stricken areas; however, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the low-interest loans and penalty reductions are only “limited tools” for relief.

According to the National Climatic Data Center, some parts of the Midwest have experienced the worst conditions since 1988 as crops and pastures continue to sizzle.

And the record setting drought does not seem to be easing any time soon. Scientists for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently released a report which ties extreme weather events such as prolonged heat waves and drought to the broader implications of climate change. June temperatures revealed that once again the past 12 months have been the warmest on record in the US since the National Climatic Data Center began recording temperatures in 1895.

Subsequently, roughly 56% of the country is currently experiencing extreme drought conditions, the farthest reaching drought in over a decade, according to the US Drought Monitor.

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