The declaration—which covers roughly half of the country—gives farmers and ranchers devastated by drought access to federal aid, including low-interest emergency loans.
“Agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday while announcing the assistance program. “We need to be cognizant of the fact that drought and weather conditions have severely impacted farmers around the country.”
[Also read: First half of year hottest ever]
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, more than half the country (56 percent) experienced drought conditions—the largest percentage in the 12-year history of the service. And according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the period from January through June was “the warmest first half of any year on record for the contiguous United States.”
A heat wave blistered most of the United States in June, with more than 170 all-time temperature records broken or tied during the month. On June 28 in Norton, Kan., for instance, the temperature reached 118 degrees, an all-time high. On June 26, Red Willow, Neb., set a temperature record of 115 degrees, eclipsing the 114-degree mark set in 1932.