Analysts say the notable aspect of this drought  is its rapid increase in intensity since the beginning of July, spanning the crucial crop development period. As the percentage of total cropland under severe or greater drought increased from 17% to 39% (a 56% increase), the total value of crops increased from 16% to 31%, and the total value of cattle increased from 16% to 44%, USDA economists report.
The percentage of farms located in areas experiencing drought has reached 62%, and two-thirds of all livestock are produced in areas experiencing moderate drought, USDA calculates.
Broken down by each commodity, 42-44% of corn and soybean crops are growing in moderate drought areas and 30% are grown in areas with severe drought conditions; 12% of the wheat crop is in an area of the country with extreme drought or worse. As of July 17, 88% of the corn crop was in an area affected by drought.
Dairy farmers are the least likely to be in areas affected by drought, but only 20% of cattle production is in an area that has minimal drought; 35% are produced in moderate drought areas, and 44% are produced in severe drought areas.
Crop condition ratings have been following the drought pattern of quick intensity increases, as they have been decreasing throughout the month of July. In its crop condition report on July 23, USDA ratings downgraded corn’s good/excellent rating to 26% in its seventh week of continuous declines. Wheat good/excellent ratings have decreased the past four weeks, but are still at 60%, and soybeans have been reduced every week there has been condition ratings, though at a slower rate than corn. This week’s good/excellent ratings for soybeans are 26% good excellent, down from last week’s 34%.
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.