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Agriculture

Agricultural drought results from below-normal precipitation and/or above-normal temperatures/wind that evaporate moisture from soils and plants. The location, extent, and severity of drought impacts to agriculture depend on underlying social and ecosystem vulnerabilities, access to irrigation, types of crops grown, and other factors.

Agricultural Drought

Agricultural Drought snapshot image

According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, agricultural drought “links various characteristics of meteorological (or hydrological) drought to agricultural impacts.” Detection and monitoring of agricultural drought focuses on precipitation deficits, differences between actual and potential evapotranspiration (evaporation from the soil and other surfaces and transpiration from plants), soil water deficits, and reduced water availability.

Data, Maps, and Tools

Monitoring agricultural drought typically focuses on examining levels of precipitation, evaporative demand, soil moisture, and surface/groundwater quantity and quality.

Current Agricultural Conditions

U.S. Crops and Livestock in Drought

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts hundreds of surveys each year and a Census of Agriculture every 5 years. NASS prepares reports covering virtually every aspect of U.S. agriculture, including agricultural commodities statistics for crops and livestock.

This map displays USDA corn crop production (data from 2017) alongside current U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) drought designations. Learn more.

This map displays USDA soybean crop production (data from 2017) alongside current U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) drought designations. Learn more.

This map displays USDA hay crop production (data from 2017) alongside current U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) drought designations. Learn more.

This map displays USDA beef cattle data (data from 2017) alongside current U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) drought designations. Learn more.

Corn Produced by County
Value Map Hex Color
Scales by Acreage #095c59
Soybeans Produced by County
Value Map Hex Color
Scales by Acreage #623587
Hay Produced by County
Value Map Hex Color
Scales by Acreage #2a610b
Beef Cattle Produced by County
Value Map Hex Color
Scales by Inventory #49b804
U.S. Drought Monitor
Value Map Hex Color
D0 #ffff00
D1 #ffcc99
D2 #ff6600
D3 #ff0000
D4 #660000

Crop Moisture Index

The Crop Moisture Index (CMI) gives the short-term or current status of purely agricultural drought or moisture surplus and can change rapidly from week to week. The CMI can be used to measure the status of dryness or wetness affecting warm season crops. Learn more.

Dry Conditions
Value Map Hex Color
Abnormally Dry #ffffbd
Excessively Dry #ffd27e
Severely Dry #ffa800
Wet Conditions
Value Map Hex Color
Abnormally Moist #e9ffbb
Wet #a9ff00
Excessively Wet #076900
Other Values
Value Map Hex Color
Slightly Dry / Favorably Moist #fff
Missing / Incomplete #000

Impacts and Related Content

Reduced Crop and Forage Yields

Agricultural drought by definition refers to conditions that result in adverse plant responses, which can range from reduced crop and forage yields to total crop or forage failure.

Increased Expenses for Feeding/Watering/De-Stocking Livestock

During agricultural drought, farmers and ranchers face increased expenses for feeding and watering livestock, and significant costs may be incurred if they are forced to de-stock due to insufficient feed.

Widespread Economic Impacts

The costs of agricultural drought impacts are spread across the food system, affecting everyone from farm input suppliers to farmers to consumers.

Ecosystem Functions

Drought can contribute to insect and plant disease outbreaks that stress vegetation. Drought also increases the risks of wind erosion and wildfire, which can impact the health of agricultural communities. Finally, drought can alter ecosystem functions that are key for agriculture, including pollination, soil retention, and soil fertility.

By Sector | Agriculture

Visit the Sector page to learn more about drought's substantial negative impacts on agricultural production.