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It's hot. High temperatures and a lack of rain have brought about the country's widest-ranging drought since the 1950s. The entire state of Missouri has been declared a federal disaster area, along with 82 counties in Kansas. Crops are struggling to survive, and so are cattle farmers who can't feed their livestock.

Experts: Missouri’s Widespread Drought Expected to Get Worse

U.S. Drought Monitor

Missouri officials considered ways to step up drought response Thursday, the same day the U.S. Drought Monitor said more than 2.5 million people are being affected by the conditions.

The state’s drought assessment committee met for the first time since Gov. Mike Parson signed an executive order July 18 about the drought. Since then, five more counties were put into the “severe drought” category, bringing the total to 52 counties experiencing either severe or extreme drought.

And it doesn’t look like the state will see any relief, according to National Weather Service hydrologist Mark Fuchs.

“Expect the drought to worsen or continue across most of the state and perhaps cover most of the state by the time October rolls around,” Fuchs said at the meeting.

Missouri isn’t alone. Many counties in eastern Kansas are extremely dry and almost a quarter of the United States is experiencing severe to exceptional drought.

University of Missouri Agriculture and Environment Extension Program Director Rob Kallenbach said reduced hay yields have affected farmers, something that’s led to culling cattle herds in parts of southwest Missouri. Kallenbach emphasized the far reaching effects of drought.

“It impacts our drinking water, our municipal water. It affects our industry, our wildlife, our lawns, our friends, our food and our families,” Kallenbach said. “Drought is one of the things that you can’t get go get in the storm shelter, right. In drought you can’t go to high ground. In drought you just have to plan ahead and hope for the best.”

The committee is tasked with recommending innovative strategies from state and federal agencies to mitigate the drought, Missouri Water Resources Center Director Jennifer Hoggatt told KCUR ahead of Thursday’s meeting.

“Drought is not going to wait on us,” Hoggatt said. “We need to be responding in real time.”

Aviva Okeson-Haberman is a KCUR news intern. Follow her on Twitter: @avivaokeson.

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