After a year riddled with pandemic-related challenges, farmers were hoping for an easy, uncomplicated growing season.

Unfortunately, for many that dream seems unlikely, as much of the Western half of the country is experiencing severe to exceptional drought conditions. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the dry conditions can be attributed to “a weak summer monsoon season and ongoing La Niña conditions.” It’s likely that climate change is to blame as well; changing precipitation patterns are a well-documented side effect of climate change, including more severe and prolonged droughts.

Things are expected to get worse before they get better; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that drought conditions will persist for several months, affecting about 74 million Americans. Farmers and ranchers are among those who will most directly experience the effects in the form of less abundant and more expensive water, diminished crop yields, and higher expenditures for hay.

There are also concerns that dried-out trees and vegetation will fuel another bad wildfire season, following last year’s devastating blazes. Several states, including Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, are currently experiencing or recently experienced high fire risk. In Wisconsin, 1,500 acres have already burned – which doesn’t bode well for the typically much more treacherous wildfire season in the West.

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