WASHINGTON, July 13 (UPI) -- A severe drought is spreading in the Midwest this summer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture saying 1,016 counties in 26 states are natural disaster areas.
Drought conditions are being experienced in about 61 percent of the contiguous United States, the highest percentage in the 12-year record of the U.S. Drought Monitor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
"Widespread deterioration and expansion of dryness and drought" in the Midwest, northwestern Ohio Valley and southern Great Plains is the result of unusually high temperatures and a lack of any significant rainfall, the drought monitor reported.
The National Climatic Data Center said the past 12 months have been the warmest the United States has experienced since record-keeping began in 1895.
A number of areas in the southern Midwest are reporting the poorest conditions for farming and livestock for June since 1988.
A county is generally considered a natural disaster area if it has suffered severe drought for eight consecutive weeks.
If so declared, farmers in a county can apply for low interest emergency loans from the Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency.