The Drought of 2012

This summer, the United States has experienced its worst drought in more than half a century. The Mississippi River is approaching record lows, as far as 20 feet below normal. Throughout the Midwest, meager corn harvests began on the some of the earliest dates ever recorded. Corn and soybean farms are producing far smaller yields this year, which will affect livestock production and impact food prices worldwide -- especially in developing nations, where even a small rise in the cost of grains can be devastating. Collected below are images of a very dry and dusty Midwest, where residents hope that remnants of Hurricane Isaac might bring at least a little relief.
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1. Rancher Gary Wollert pauses before heading out for work near Eads, on the plains of eastern Colorado, on August 23, 2012. The nation's severe drought has been especially hard on cattlemen, made worse when Congress recessed for 5 weeks without passing disaster relief legislation. Most of the high plains areas of eastern Colorado and virtually all of Nebraska and Kansas are still in extreme or exceptional drought, despite recent lower temperatures.




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2. Darren Becker sifts through arid topsoil under a ruined crop on the family farm in Logan, Kansas, on August 24, 2012. Like many Kansas farmers whose profits have been wiped out by the record drought, the Beckers are working hard to hang on to their farm, which has been in their family for five generations.




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3. Severely damaged corn stalks due to a widespread drought, at sunset on a farm near Oakland City, Indiana, on August 15, 2012.




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4. Tony Frost of Frost Farms (not pictured) tops off a stock tank with water for his cattle in Tallula, Illinois, on August 3, 2012. After months of drought, the central Illinois creeks and ponds that the 300 Frost Farms cows drink from are dry or close to it. Frost has to buy and haul water, about 4,000 gallons a day, split up in four trips to different pastures.




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5. A combine harvests corn in a field near Coy, Arkansas, on August 16, 2012. Federal weather forecasters say drought conditions appear to be leveling off, although it is likely to continue at least through November.




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6. Pieces of mulched corn stalks fly through the air as a crop cutter mows down the remnants of a drought-ravaged crop to sell as livestock feed in Wiley, Colorado, on August 22, 2012.




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7. Farmer Jay Sneller unloads mulched corn at a feedlot operated by JBS Five Rivers Colorado Beef in Wiley, Colorado, on August 22, 2012. The severe drought dried up most of eastern Colorado's farmland, forcing many farmers to cut their crops early to sell as feed and recoup some of their losses.




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8. A storm approaches the drought-affected Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Hudson, Kansas, on August 7, 2012.




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9. Firefighters battle a wildfire near the town of Noble in Cleveland County, south of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on August 4, 2012. Wildfires burned out of control in Oklahoma, destroying homes and shutting down highways in a state that suffered 18 straight days of 100-plus degree temperatures and persistent drought.




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10. A sugar maple tree shows signs of scorching at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois, on August 2, 2012. Many of the garden's 2.5 million plants have required extra watering during the summer's triple-digit heat.




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11. A gust of wind picks up dust in the remains of a poor harvest of soybeans. Wrapped plastic, the bales of soybeans will help ranchers feed their cows during the lean months that may come if there is no rain.




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12. Vacationers seek refuge from the heat on a sand bar along the Platte River near the Louisville state recreation area in Nebraska, on July 17, 2012. Low water flow due to lack of precipitation has exposed large areas of the river bed.




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13. Boats sit near a dock on the dry, grass-covered bottom of Morse Reservoir in Noblesville, Indiana, on August 1, 2012. The reservoir is six feet below normal levels. More than half of U.S. counties now are classified by the federal government as natural disaster areas mostly because of the drought. The U.S. Agriculture Department on Wednesday added 218 counties in a dozen states as disaster areas. That brings this year's total to 1,584 in 32 states, more than 90 percent of them because of the drought.




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14. Rancher Gary Wollert inspects a dead cow on dry grasslands near Eads, Colorado, on August 22, 2012. Many cattle in the area have contracted respiratory infections due to the wide temperature swings in this summer's heatwave and drought. While most cases have been cured, some have been fatal.




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15. Dry stalks of corn, ravaged by drought, stand in a failed corn field near Colby, Kansas, on August 24, 2012. Most of Kansas is still in extreme or exceptional drought, despite recent lower temperatures and scattered thunderstorms, according to the University of Nebraska's Drought Monitor.




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16. A dead carp lies in one of many dried up pools at Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, in Great Bend, Kansas, on August 7, 2012.




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17. A cow walks near a dried-up pond in a drought-ravaged pasture near Eads, Colorado, on August 22, 2012. The severe drought has dried up most of eastern Colorado's natural grassland, forcing many ranchers to sell off much of their livestock early to feedlots, which fatten up the cattle for slaughter.




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18. Farmer Jay Sneller displays an ear from a drought-ravaged corn crop in Wiley, Colorado, on August 22, 2012.




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19. The shoreline of the Arkansas banks of the Mississippi River near Greenville, Mississippi, are exposed and give witness to the extent of the drought, on August 21, 2012. Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say low water levels that are restricting shipping traffic, forcing harbor closures and causing towboats and barges to run aground on the Mississippi River are expected to continue into October.




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21. An old car, exposed by record low water levels, is pulled from a Mississippi River bank at LeTourneau Landing in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on August 16, 2012. Local fishermen reported to authorities seeing the car Wednesday at a spot frequented by many area fishermen.




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22. A spray of sand laced water shoots out from the Dredge Jadwin, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers vessel that is clearing out some of the silt and left over mud and debris from last year's record flood on the Mississippi River and cutting a deeper channel for barges and their towboats to navigate north of Greenville, Mississippi, on August 22, 2012. Coast Guard Capt. William Drelling said Wednesday that authorities would inspect the channel near Greenville, then reset navigation buoys allowing barge traffic to resume on a limited basis as both federal agencies deal with the continued drought that has lowered the river.




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23. A much needed storm system rolls over starved corn fields in Elburn, Illinois, on July 31, 2012.




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24. Josh Cussimanio, a wildlife biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, walks on parched earth as he monitors the water levels in the Ducks Unlimited Presidents' Marsh at Four Rivers Conservation Area. During the worst drought in three decades, much of the water in the wetland has been reduced and habitat for waterfowl has decreased.




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25. A couple canoe on Mark Twain Lake during sunset in Missouri on July 13, 2012.




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26. Joseph Perazzo, owner of Grass is Greener Lawn Painting, works on a lawn in Irvington, New Jersey, on July 25, 2012. With drought spanning about two-thirds of the nation from California to New York, some residents and businesses in normally well-watered areas are taking a page from the lawn-painting practices employed for years in the West and South to give luster to faded turf.




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27. Drought-stricken cotton plants near Pocasset, Oklahoma, on August 22, 2012. The current U.S. Drought Monitor shows 90 percent of Oklahoma in extreme or exceptional drought, the two worst categories.




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28. A yellowing field of corn, near Blair, Nebraska, on August 16, 2012.




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29. A firefighter sprays water during a burn operation in Boise National Forest near the community of Featherville, Idaho, on August 22, 2012. The Idaho fire was one of dozens burning across 10 parched western states, with Nevada, Idaho, and California each seeing hundreds of thousands of acres charred.




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30. Water from an irrigation system sprays flowering cotton plants on the farm of Allen Entz in Hydro, Oklahoma, on August 16, 2012. Even with the irrigation system to help with the drought, the high temperatures in the area have affected the crop, as it can take 35-40 hours for the center pivot irrigation system to make it back to irrigate any particular plant.




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31. Cattle graze at sunset on drought-ravaged grassland near Wiley, on the plains of eastern Colorado, on August 22, 2012.




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32. A boat dock now rests in mud at Morse Reservoir as water levels drop due to the current drought near Cicero, Indiana, on July 19, 2012. State officials declared most of the state a natural disaster area.




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33. Darren Becker and his son Charlie, 19, stand in a drought-parched pond on the family farm in Logan, Kansas, on August 24, 2012.




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34. Steve Connole fishes in the Missouri River in Helena, Montana, on August 1, 2012. More anglers are fishing on larger rivers and earlier in the day as heat and drought lead to restrictions on several small streams in Montana and in Yellowstone National Park.




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35. A message on a restaurant sign in Burlington, eastern Colorado, on August 23, 2012. The ongoing drought has devastated the area's agricultural economy, but also affected a broad spectrum of businesses across the plains.




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36. Three generations of Becker farmers - Loyd, 86, Charlie, 19, and Darren, 47 stand in a drought-parched field on the Becker farm in Logan, Kansas, on August 24, 2012. Like many Kansas farmers affected by the record drought, the Beckers are working hard to hang on to their farm, which has been in their family for five generations. The record-breaking drought, which has affected more than half of the continental United States, is expected to drive up food prices by 2013 due to lower crop harvests and the adverse effect on the nation's cattle industry.