Dry ears of corn and plant material lie in a field near Plumerville, Ark., last week.By Danny Johnston, AP
Dry ears of corn and plant material lie in a field near Plumerville, Ark., last week.The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday shows that the amount of the contiguous U.S. mired in drought conditions dropped a little more than 1 percentage point, to 62.46 percent.But the expanse still gripped by extreme or exceptional drought rose nearly 2 percentage points to 24.14 percent.This is the highest percentage of the U.S. in extreme to exceptional drought since Drought Monitor records began in 2000.The entire states of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Colorado are now in a drought.The nation's biggest corn and soybean producer, Iowa, is still grappling with the drought. The amount of that state in extreme or exceptional drought more than doubled, rising from 30.74 percent last week to 69.14 percent as of Tuesday.Overall, across the Midwest, reports of water-related impacts are ticking upward as mandatory restrictions continue to ramp upward around the region, the monitor reports."As the drought continues, this will undoubtedly become a more prevalent issue as the agricultural season passes and attention turns to next year's crops or herds," climatologist Mark Svoboda of the National Drought Mitigation Center wrote in the monitor.Contributing: Doyle Rice, USA TODAYCopyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.For more information about reprints & permissions, visit our FAQ's. To report corrections and clarifications, contact Standards Editor Brent Jones. For publication consideration in the newspaper, send comments to email@example.com. Include name, phone number, city and state for verification. To view our corrections, go to corrections.usatoday.com.