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We’ve been covering the drought that’s devastating the Midwest for the last couple of weeks, and now we’ve found the most drought-devastated county in America.Gallatin County, Illinois, population 5,589, is a farming community, mostly corn and soybeans.
The median income is $30,252
Average high temperature during planting season: 86F
Average rainfall during planting season: 4 inches
A total of 0.39 inches of precipitation for all of June, and 1.37 total inches for all of July.
Average temperature has been around 92F, with a high of 106F on June 29.
Here’s where they’re located, on the Weather Channel’s heat map:
Here’s what their weather’s been like for the past month:
Since mid-June, they have been classified by the U.S. Drought Monitor as experiencing “extreme” drought conditions. And just today, their condition was downgraded to the highest drought concern level, “exceptional.”
According to farmers interviewed by Business Insider, the best-case scenario for the local corn crop yield is 15 per cent.
The more likely? Zero.
Butch Brazier, 62, is a farmer as well as a Gallatin county commissioner.
He told us these are the worst conditions he has seen in his lifetime. He’s spent the past three weeks watching his corn crops wilt to nothing under the record heat and drought.
Often from indoors, it turns out, because local authorities have ordered residents not to venture outside, Brazier said.
What’s ironic is that the area experienced massive floods just last spring. Check out this video:
For most farmers in the area, there’s almost no back-up irrigation system that would kick in during such conditions, he said.
That sets them apart from other farmers we talked to who live in the country’s “exceptional” dry areas — at least they had some help.
Even for the lucky few who did, Brazier said, the air was so dry that many decided it wasn’t worth the waste in resources to turn on their systems.
Bill Raben of Ridgway, Gallatin County, said he expects zero yield from his 3,000-acre corn crop.
“Individuals who don’t have crop insurance, unless they have a lot of financial backing, it’s definitely going to stress them,” he said.
Meanwhile, local cattle farmers have been forced to dip into their winter supplies of hay to feed livestock because there’s nothing growing, Brazier said.
The conditions will devastate local farmers’ businesses once they start bringing what little yield they’ve mustered to market in the coming weeks, he said. “If they don’t go broke, they’ll be in a hell of a pickle.”
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