|An Alabama farmer holds corn from his farm damaged by drought|
Heat and drought are threatening some of America's most productive farmland.
The Department of Agriculture says an early summer heat wave across the West has increased demand for water to save dry crops. But in many areas, water supplies are limited. Water is also needed to fight wildfires in western states like California, Nevada and Washington.
Temperatures have reached about thirty-eight degrees Celsius recently in parts of Colorado, Montana and Wyoming. The Agriculture Department says temperatures averaged several degrees above normal.
Some people in the West say they cannot remember a time with less rain in half a century. But drought conditions have been most severe in the South.
The northern part of Alabama is described as the driest in about one hundred years. With grasslands damaged, many farmers in Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee have no hay to feed their cows. So they have sold up to half of their cattle early.
In southern Alabama and northern Tennessee, farmers also suffered through a dry period last year. Some were hoping for a big corn crop this year to sell for ethanol fuel. But the government says most of their crop is in poor or very poor condition.
Experts say soybeans and cotton look better -- but not very much. Federal officials have declared all counties in Alabama a drought disaster area. That means farmers can get low-cost emergency loans. But they are asking Congress for an additional seventeen million dollars in aid.
Ten million would go to drilling for water and regrowing pasture lands. The other money would go to cattle producers to help them recover their losses from selling early.
But drought is not the only weather problem right now for American agriculture. Recently, too much rain fell for some crops in the southeastern Plains. Heavy rain and flooding in the lowlands damaged wheat planted in the winter.
To the east, rains of twenty-five centimeters or more in areas struck the western Gulf of Mexico. The rains washed out fields and flooded lowlands.
But farmers welcomed heavy rainfall in early July from the Mississippi River Delta to the southern Atlantic coastal area. Farmers have also received some welcome rains along the Corn Belt. This area includes the Ohio Valley and parts of the Upper Midwest.
Summer crops in the Midwest have been mainly free of the drought suffered in other areas this summer.
And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. I'm Steve Ember.