Drought Spreads Across Eastern U.S.
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Although recent rains have perked up some lawns and pastures, this summer’s drought has spread and deepened across much of the eastern United States.
``It’s definitely not over,″ said Albert Peterlin, the Agriculture Department’s chief meteorologist.
Severe to extreme drought conditions exist from Maine to Indiana and down through Florida, according to the government’s latest drought analysis released Wednesday.
Moderate drought conditions persist through other parts of the Midwest and South and even in Virginia and North Carolina, where some areas recently got 6 inches of rain or more from the remnants of Hurricane Dennis. The drought analysis is updated weekly by the Agriculture Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
A month ago, the severe and extreme drought conditions were confined primarily to the mid-Atlantic states and a portion of Kentucky and Ohio.
``The drought is expanding into the more fertile or productive areas of the country,″ Peterlin said. ``The good news is that the growing season is about over.″
Recent rains came too late to save most crops that have been damaged by the drought and missed some of the driest areas entirely.
More than half the soybean crop in four states _ Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee _ is rated poor or very poor, as well as 50 percent of the corn in Missouri and 48 percent of the corn in Pennsylvania, according to USDA’s weekly crop report.
The problem for livestock producers is even more widespread. At least two-thirds of the pastureland in Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont and West Virginia is rated as poor or very poor.
``It’s terrible,″ said Joe Cornerly, a spokesman for the Ohio Farm Bureau. While most of Ohio’s crops are in fair to good condition, according to the USDA, many producers in the state think they have lost half their corn and 30 percent to 40 percent of their soybeans, he said.
``There’s been a pick-up in rain but accumulatively we’re way behind,″ he said.
Meanwhile, there is so much standing water in several Eastern states, including Maryland and Virginia, that communities are battling outbreaks of mosquitoes.
But the drought won’t be over even in that region without more rain and snow through the fall and winter, said Peterlin. Even though rivers and streams are full, soil moisture is still below normal.
Because of the drought, all or parts of 16 states have been declared agricultural disaster areas this year: Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia.