The US Agriculture Department has classified an additional 218 counties and a dozen states as disaster areas due to the nation's drought. That brings this year's total to nearly 1600 counties in Ohio and 31 other states. More than 90% of them because of the drought. A national monitor map by the University of Nebraska shows Ohio is in a moderate drought. Ohio State University agricultural economist Matt Roberts tells statehouse correspondent Bill Cohen recent rainfall cannot reverse much of the damaged crop yields.
MR: The entire state of Ohio is in some level of drought. 100 percent of it. And in general, from an agricultural standpoint, really the worst of it is in western Ohio and Northwestern Ohio.
BC: A lot of people have noticed it has rained in some parts of Ohio the last couple of weeks. Has that not helped to ease the situation?
MR: It has helped the situation. Now one of the things, because of the weather pattern--and I'm not a climatologist, I'm not a meteorologist so I don't fully understand all of this. The rains have been much spottier. We haven't seen that they've been spottier, they've been quick and they've been hard. They've not been slower, soaking types of rain really widespread. So really what we have had a few of those, but not what we like. So it has helped to keep the drought from getting worse in some cases to really improve it. The key thing to realize is we're pretty much past the point which rains like that are going to help the corn crop. The corn crop generally is what it is. On soy beans, these rains have helped yield prospects. We have seen a little bit of renewed optimism among farmers that if things break right we might approach yields that maybe are average but at least aren't embarrassing or horrible like what we expect to see in corn.
Drought affected farmers and ranchers are available for federal aid including emergency loans. The USDA also says crop insurance companies have agreed to provide farmers a penalty-free grace period on insurance premiums in 2012.