[USDA graphic via CNN]
CNN: "A severe drought is spreading across the Midwest this summer, resulting in some of the worst conditions in decades and leaving more than a thousand counties designated as natural disaster areas, authorities said. ... As of Tuesday, about 61% of the contiguous United States (excluding Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico) was experiencing drought conditions, the highest percentage in the 12-year record of the U.S. Drought Monitor. ... The past 12 months have been the warmest the United States has experienced since records began in 1895, the climatic data center said."