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06.02.20 drought map.jpg U.S. Drought Monitor

U.S. drought level rises sharply in May

Percentage of U.S. area in drought sees significant year-over-year increase.

At first glance, the level of U.S. drought might seem normal for this time of year, but it actually has risen sharply over even just the past two weeks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported.

“We are currently seeing almost 20% of country in drought. The exact number is 19.1%, and that is very close to the historic average of right around 20%,” USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey said.

However, he added, the number is also a significant increase in drought coverage compared to April 2019, when there was “all-time record-low U.S. drought coverage of just over 2%.”

Looking at month-over-month changes, Rippey relayed that drought was just under 15% on April 28, “so that has moved up over 5% in the last five weeks.”

The increase in drought coverage has occurred primarily in the western U.S., USDA reported.

Only 5% of U.S. corn production is in areas of drought, up from 2% in late April. In addition, only 1% of U.S. soybean production is in areas of drought. Winter wheat is a different story, with 22% of the crop now in an area experiencing drought, up from 12% in late April, USDA reported.

Hay areas experiencing drought have risen from 15% in early May to 21% in early June.

Cattle areas experiencing drought have risen from 12% in early May to 19% in early June.

USDA also noted in the latest “Crop Progress” report that range and pasture areas in poor to very poor condition are at 16%, up from just 7% last year.

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