Half of U.S. in drought again

Steady improvement since September halts
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Slightly more than 50 percent of the country was in a moderate or worse drought during the week that ended Nov. 20, the National Drought Mitigation Center says. Until that week, drought had been in steady decline since Sept. 25, when it hit its peak for the year, 54.8 percent.

The amount of the United States in drought inched up in all categories. As of Nov. 20, more than 31 percent of the country was in severe drought or worse, about 16 percent in extreme drought or worse and 5 percent in exceptional drought or worse, the center says.

Since the previous week, drought worsened in parts of Virginia, Louisiana, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, California, Nevada and New Mexico. Exceptional drought was mostly concentrated Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

In its 13 years of measurement, the center says it has never found more of the United States covered by drought in a single year.

The ongoing drought has particularly affected corn and soybean crops in the Midwest. In the final months of 2012, the price of meats, dairy and eggs may begin to increase because drought has limited the supply of crops used for animal feed, the Agriculture Department says.

For the most part though, retail food price increases will be felt in 2013, the department notes. The cost of packaged and processed foods can take about a year to increase as a result of crop damage.

That said, even if the price of corn increases by 50 percent, retail food prices would likely only increase by 1 percent or less, the USDA says.

For more:
- go to the National Drought Mitigation Center release
- go to the USDA's webpage on the 2012 drought's impact on food

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