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Scholastic Kids Press Corps
The Scholastic Kids Press Corps is a team of about 50 Kid Reporters around the nation.  The interactive site brings daily news to life with reporting for kids, by kids.
corn rotting away on a drought-hit farm Drought-damaged corn is seen in a field near Nickerson, Neb., Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012. Dry conditions have worsened in the key farming states of Kansas and Nebraska as the worst U.S. drought in decades continues. (Photo: AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

In the Grip of Epic Drought

America hit with its worst drought in 75 years

By Alysa Goethe | August 21 , 2012

A very hot and dry summer has led to one of the worst droughts in American history.

As of August 14, nearly 40 states are affected by areas of moderate to severe drought, according to the United States Drought Monitor. Eleven of those states – primarily in the Midwest — have areas affected by exceptional drought. Another 11 states have areas of extreme drought. Exceptional and extreme are the two worst levels of drought.

The epic drought has affected river levels, crops, and livestock. Some places are so severe they had to harvest their crops early to save what they could and to stop them from going bad. Residents of the hardest hit areas say it is the worst they have ever seen.

"I believe it's the worst drought since 1936," Dale Pike from Bettendorf, Iowa, told the Kids Press Corps.

Farmers have been among the hardest hit by the drought.

Missy and Jacob Peeters of Davenport, Iowa, own 400 acres of farmland that has been impacted by the drought this year. They grow crops and raise livestock, but have had a shortfall in their crops this year. "We have had to feed the corn to the cows instead of selling some of it," Jacob Peeters said.

While farmers wait for nature to give them rain, government is stepping in to help out.

Todd Wolf is the Senior Legislative Assistant for Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley. Wolf is working with Congressman Braley to put policies in place that will help farmers hurt by the drought.

"There has been such a negative impact on farms in Iowa in crops, corn and soybeans," Wolf told the Kids Press Corps. "It has affected the livestock as well, because there is not enough hay."

One thing Wolf is doing is drafting a Farm Bill that will affect crop insurance, energy programs, and quality issues that can be directly affected by weather and drought.

He hopes that the Farm Bill will pass by September 30 so that farmers will be able to receive some relief from the pain caused by the drought.

us drought map
Areas of the United States affected by drought, as of August 14. (Map: U.S. Drought Monitor, Michael Brewer/Liz Love-Brotak, NOAA/NESDIS/NCDC)

Pain Beyond the Farm

You don't have to own a farm — or even live in one of the states hit by the drought — to feel the effects of the drought.

Since crops are harder to grow this year, food prices have increased. "There is a shortage in leafy things, greens and mostly vegetables," Rick Winkelohn, Manager of Schnucks grocery store in Bettendorf, Iowa, said. "So it will cause the price to go way up."

Along with food prices, gas prices are going way up, too. Since corn crops have suffered, there has been a shortage of ethanol. Ethanol is the one of the most important components of gasoline to help it burn cleaner that regular gas.

But the most important resource the drought has affected is be the Mississippi River.

The Mississippi is the source of drinking water for more than 16 million people. It's also a major waterway for barges and boats. But because of the drought, the river has shrunk. This is making it harder for people to get water. It has also made the river too shallow for big boats to navigate.

This month, an 11-mile section of the river in the state of Mississippi has been closed off and on by the United States Coast Guard because it has become hazardous for boats to use. One boat ran aground on Friday, which caused nearly 100 other boats to stall on the river until the accident has been cleared. As of Monday, the boats were still waiting.

In Memphis, Tennessee, the drought is just as bad. "It has slowed down traffic in the channels and made it harder for the barges to get through," Kandi Waller, U.S Army Engineering Designer.

For some people along the Mississippi River, the drought has actually helped them.

Mike Coyne-Logan, a crewmember of Living Lands and Waters on the Mississippi River, told the Kids Press Corps how the lack of water has exposed garbage and debris people wouldn't normally see.

"Normally we pull out water bottles and other garbage, but now we are able to pull out cars and refrigerators," he said. "It's helped us find things farther out from the shore."

Check out Scholastic News Online for more on the historic drought.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK

Read today’s story and answer the following question:

blog it Has your community been affected by the drought? If so, how? Is your community sending help to drought-hit areas? If so, what is your community doing?

Tell us what you think on the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps Blog!


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