Yesterday, widespread drought led the Department of Agriculture to declare 1,016 counties in 26 states disaster areas. Or, in map form:

So, basically half the country? Super.

A county is subject to disaster area designation if the U.S. Drought Monitor determines that the county has suffered from severe drought for eight consecutive weeks. In other words, the entire region in the map above has suffered from severe drought for two months. The Drought Monitor even has a helpful little six-week animation of how the United States has completely dried up and crumbled into parched dust.

Click for animation.

Capital Weather Gang notes that this is the worst drought in 12 years. Bloomberg News explains the significance of the USDA’s declaration:

The declaration makes farmers and ranchers in 1,016 counties — about a third of those in the entire country — eligible for low-interest loans to help them weather the drought, wildfires and other disasters, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today. The USDA is also changing procedures to allow disaster claims to be processed more quickly and reducing the penalty ranchers are assessed for allowing livestock to graze on land set aside for conservation. …

Representative Vicky Hartzler, a first-term Republican from Missouri and member of the committee, said farmers affected by the drought will rely on existing programs for aid.

“It breaks your heart to see what’s happening,” said Hartzler, whose family farms 2,000 acres. Still, “that’s why we have crop insurance, to help with these times,” she said in an interview.

“We need intervention from a higher authority — rain,” Representative Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican committee member from Texas, said in an interview.

(We assume that “rain” refers to the needed intervention, not the higher authority.)

Grist has talked a lot about this drought: how it has caused corn prices to spike and how it might actually influence farm bill politics. (We agree with the “insiders” interviewed by the National Journal, though — the extreme heat and drought are almost certainly not going to inspire new energy around climate policy.)

So we’ll turn it over to Mental Floss for a new take on all of this. From their article, 11 Obscure Regional Phrases That Describe Excessive Heat:

  • Hotter Than Dutch Love in Harvest (Wisconsin/New York)
  • The Bear Got Him (“the bear” is heatstroke; South Carolina)
  • Awful Selsery (Kaskaskia, Ill.)
  • Hot as a Half-F**ed Fox in a Forest Fire (Scottsburg, Va.)

America: where we find the sex angle even in economic devastation and scorching temperatures. I think we’re going to be okay.