A historic dry spell has spread across the heartland this summer, leaving behind barren fields and lost harvests. Though the House passed a $383 million drought-relief package on Aug. 2, the Senate will not address the bill until after its August recess. Despite some relieving rains across the Midwest last week, 52 percent of the United States is still experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions. But even if rains were to return significantly, this corn season is beyond the point of repair. As several farmers told National Journal, the drought is the worst they've seen since the 1980s. Only the Dust Bowl of the 1930s and the five-year drought during the 1950s covered more land than the current dry spell. For many, the only salvation they have this season is crop insurance, which will help them break even on the year.
Below, National Journal talks to several Americans struggling through extreme drought. From farmers who are making crop-insurance claims for the first time, to mayor's offices worrying about water conservation, to small-business owners indirectly affected by the heat, the voices of the drought illustrate how severe weather impacts communities, businesses, and the entire agricultural economy.
(GRAPHIC: See U.S. History of Droughts)