AP PHOTOS: Scenes of drought gripping half of US

Associated Press
A field of corn withers under triple-degree heat north of Wichita, Kan., in Sedgwick County Monday, July 16, 2012. The drought gripping the United States is the widest since 1956, according to new data released Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Fifty-five percent of the continental U.S. was in a moderate to extreme drought by the end of June, NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., said in its monthly State of the Climate drought report. That's the largest percentage since December 1956, when 58 percent of the country was covered by drought. (AP Photo/The Wichita Eagle, Mike Hutmacher)
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Crops wither. Topsoil lies cracked and parched. Reservoirs shrink, leaving dry beds exposed to the sun.

More than half of the continental United States is in some stage of drought, while most of the rest of the nation endures abnormally dry conditions.

In its monthly drought report, the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., announced Monday that 55 percent of the country was in a moderate to extreme drought at the end of June. That's the largest percentage of affected land since December 1956, when 58 percent of the U.S. was covered by drought.

The percentage of affected land rivals even some years of the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s, though experts point out that this year's weather has been milder than that period, and farming practices have vastly improved.

Corn and soybean crops have been devastated in places, and livestock farms are suffering, too. It's a huge disappointment for farmers who only a few months ago had expected record harvests.

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Here's a gallery of drought photos.

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