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Worst Drought Since 1998

By Jane Hwang - 2012-07-16T07:28:43Z

Photograph by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

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Parched Earth

Cracked, dry ground where a pond normally stands on the property of Ray Mercer in Crossville, Illinois, on July 11. Mercer said he has lived here for more than 50 years and this is just the second time the pond has dried up. More than 1,000 counties in 26 states are being named natural disaster areas, the biggest such declaration ever by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as drought grips the Midwest.

As of July 10, about 63 percent of the nation's land area is suffering moderate to extreme drought, up from 53 percent a week earlier, the National Drought Mitigation Center said yesterday. The U.S. government cut its outlook for the domestic corn crop, the world's largest, by 12 percent on July 11, just a month after forecasting a record harvest. The USDA is now predicting 12.97 billion bushels (329.45 million metric tons) of corn this year after a June prediction of 14.79 billion bushels.