The U.S. is in the midst of its worst drought  since the mid-1950s, according to the National Climatic Data Center’s monthly "State of the Climate" report for June. The report released Monday morning said that 55% of the contiguous U.S. was considered to be in moderate to extreme drought at the end of June, the highest percentage since December of 1956, when about 58% of the country was considered to be under such drought conditions, based on the Palmer Drought Index, which measures long-term drought.
The severe drought of 1988 peaked with about 52% of the U.S. in moderate to extreme long-term drought.
"The primary corn  and soybean  agricultural belt has been especially hard hit by drought the last three months," the center said, noting that the region as a whole experienced its seventh warmest and tenth driest April-June period on record, resulting in the fifth most severe reading on the Palmer Z index, which measures short-term drought on a monthly scale.
The most severe Palmer Z index reading was recorded in 1988, followed by 1934, 1936 and 1987, respectively.
June 2012 was another warmer- and drier-than-average month – the 14th warmest and 10th driest on record going back to 1895 – when weather conditions are averaged across the country, the NCDC said.
Conditions have only continued to worsen since the start of July with the weekly reading of the long-term Palmer Drought Index  for the week ended July 14 ranking as the driest on record going back to 1895 for the contiguous U.S. as a whole.
Editor’s note: Richard Brock, Corn & Soybean Digest's marketing editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.