The worst US drought in 56 years has intensified over the past week as scorching temperatures continued and too little rainfall parched corn and soybean crops across the Midwest and central Plains, a report from climate experts said on Thursday.
Nearly two-thirds of the contiguous United States was under some level of drought as of July 31, more than a fifth of it classified as extreme drought or worse, according to the Drought Monitor, a weekly report compiled by U.S. climate experts.
Reporting by The Guardian highlighted how the latest drought map, released on Thursday by the National Drought Mitigation Center, showed the drought intensifying across the grain belt in the midwestern and plains states.
"It's hard to believe that it's getting worse, but it is, even with some rain in the region," Brian Fuchs, a climatologist and drought monitor author at the National Drought Mitigation Center, which is based at the University of Nebraska, said in a release. "Drought continues to intensify through the midwest and plains states."
As the drought continues to ravage the nation's corn, wheat and soybean fields, crop insurance losses are expected to break records, CNN reports.
"It will be a major loss situation," said Thomas Zacharias, president of the National Crop Insurance Services, a lobbying group representing private crop insurers. "The companies are in the field adjusting claims as we speak."
An economist with the group roughly estimated that losses could top $20 billion, said CNN, noting that sixty cents of every dollar of crop insurance is backed by the federal government which will leave US taxpayers picking up the tab, while at the same time facing increasing prices at the grocery store.
The crop failures, according to The Guardian report, have already raised fears of price rises later in the year. The department of agriculture said dairy, poultry and meat prices would go up by about 4%.
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