The soaring temperatures scorching states from Illinois to Texas have done more than cause discomfort -- a record drought is battering farmers and ranchers whose crops are withering and whose livestock are going unfed.
Some of the same states that are experiencing historically high triple digit temperatures are also contending with a lack of rain, dry winds, and wildfires. Every county in Texas qualified last month as a natural disaster area eligible for federal relief, and officials there reckoned the losses at more than 30% of the state's wheat fields, or $3 billion.
It's horrible so far, Mike Newberry, a Georgia farmer who is trying grow cotton, corn and peanuts, told the New York Times. There is no description for what we've been through since we started planting corn in March.
The loss of crops will likely create a ripple effect in which livestock farmers cannot feed as many of their animals as grass dries up and hay becomes more expensive.
Meterologists believe that a La Niña, when parts of the Pacific ocean become cooler than usual, has kept moisture from traveling to the mainland in warm air. That means this heat wave is likely unrelated to the devastating wave of floods and tornadoes that swept across the country in recent months.
The suffering is exacerbated by the fact that the government is tight on cash. Agricultural subsidies have been a rare source of bipartisan agreement as a possible target for budget cuts, and farmers are not anticipating much help from the government.
Because we overspent, the Legislature overspent, we've been cut back and then the drought comes along and we don't have the resources and federal government doesn't, and so we just tighten our belt and go on, said Donald Butler, the director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture.