As severe drought covers about two-thirds of the country, more than half of all American counties have been designated primary disaster areas by the Department of Agriculture.
George Naylor is a farmer and activist in Iowa and former president of the National Family Farm Coalition. He discusses how the drought is affecting him and his neighbors. "Just about every farmer knows their crop will be less than normal by quite a bit," Naylor says.
Throughout the fields of his farm, soil is drying, and crops that were planted in sandier soil have gone completely. "Even though the landscape is covered with crops, we actually had a dust storm right here in my neighborhood," Naylor says. "It blew down some of the corn. It's kind of strange — you almost think about the Dust Bowl."
Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at Rutgers University, believes that the drought is a product of increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
"This is exactly what models have been predicting for a long time — drier conditions that tend to be dry anyway in summer, and the types of heat waves that we've been experiencing all through the Southwest and the central part of the U.S.," Francis says.
"The kinds of conditions that we're experiencing this summer will probably get more frequent," she says. Reports have indicated that global warming has played a part in the increasing number of droughts and heat waves. As Deputy NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan Ph.D. said in a press release, "Every weather event that happens now takes place in the context of a changing global environment."
Naylor points to the construction of the American farming system as another reason for the effects of the drought. "[Congress] for the last 50 years has chosen the policy of market-oriented farm policy, which means we're supposed to clear the market every year of what we produce and not have reserves of grain," he says. "This is a man-made disaster for the rest of society.