The current US Drought Monitor map was published today, and is pictured and linked to the right.

All but four Chicago-area counties in the US state of Illinois are disaster counties. Illinois has 102 counties. In short, Illinois, and I mean the whole of this giant Midwest state, is a government-listed, aid eligible disaster area. Illinois is, in pertinent part a leading US producer of corn, soybeans and swine, with 76,000 farms covering 28 million acres amounting to nearly eighty percent of Illinois total land acreage. The Illinois Department of Agriculture summarizes:

How does agriculture benefit Illinois’ economy?

Marketing of Illinois’ agricultural commodities generates more than $9 billion annually. Corn accounts for nearly 40 percent of that total. Marketing of soybeans contributes about one-third, with the combined marketings of livestock, dairy and poultry generating about 23 percent.

Billions more dollars flow into the state’s economy from ag-related industries, such as farm machinery manufacturing, agricultural real estate, and production and sale of value-added food products. Rural Illinois benefits principally from agricultural production, while agricultural processing and manufacturing strengthen urban economies.

How are Illinois’ agricultural commodities used?

With more than 950 food manufacturing companies, Illinois is well-equipped to turn the state’s crops and livestock into food and industrial products. Food processing is the state’s number-one manufacturing activity, adding almost $13.4 billion annually to the value of Illinois’ raw agricultural commodities.

I include this information about Illinois as one way of understanding the immensity and severity of our current drought situation. This post is just an update, really, because the stories rolling in on a daily basis are each stand-alone amazing stories. There is no way to overstate this issue, and the weather predictions are consistently grim. There are only so many words I can drag from my vocabulary to describe this. I could talk about the strange stuff for a minute: there are no birds out during the days anymore. We have no clear idea how the birds are making it or where they go. Birds are very, I think, intuitive about the environment as a whole. This is bizarre but true. Before the drought hit, I spent a night on the couch downstairs and no, we weren’t arguing because we are, quite frankly, too damn old to argue with each other. Whatever. Anyway, I was on the couch and the birds all woke me with very loud chirping, in the middle of the night. They continued all through the night. Never seen anything like it, so, I called my mother. She said, and she was right, “The birds know. They know something is wrong.”

Hate to rat-a-tat-tat-tat you guys, in true machine gun fashion but here is some of it. Today, our neighbor, Indiana, a quarter of the whole state, joined us in the extra-special category of drought called “Exceptional Drought.” Animals in Indiana are walking around the place, eating leaves and things that animals have never before eaten. Our exceptional drought, in Western Kentucky is really strange because we are a lowland area, surrounded by major rivers like the Missouri, The Ohio, The Tennessee and very close The Mississippi rivers. I got stuck in the mud one time because I did not have a good grasp of the water in the ground and I stupidly parked our truck by the side of the road to rescue a squirrel. While I was picking up the squirrel, the truck was visibly and dramatically sinking into the mud right in front of me. It sunk to the axle, and some locals swung by with a truck to assess, educate, then get back in their truck to drive to their place to get the Hije-Dije-Fanoidenheeden rope thing to pull the idiots that are not from here, out of the mud. The idea that water would ever be an issue in this lush river town was unthinkable. People here, BTW are just such good people, lost everything, never complain. This election season, I think the Passing Public will seek to elect Somebody Who Notices and Cares, preferably with some kind of a synapse connected in his whole damn head.

The current people in charge argue about this non-issue or that one, while fifty percent of America stands in a burned up cornfield. Who we gonna kill with what today is totally and utterly disconnected from a really obvious and meaningful issue that impacts, this time, Big Agriculture. People are sick and tired of hearing this other stuff. There is a real issue at hand here at home in our own food supply, and you watch, for example, the future unknown but guaranteed public health issue. Currently, CDC reports an outbreak of pertussis, or whooping cough, and CDC is focusing, right now on the infant population because this is a very serious and often fatal respiratory illness for the infants. This is stuff nobody reports in the news because news it not really even news anymore, but 18 states are listed with CDC, with Wisconsin in the lead:

Sorry for the digression there. I am reaching my posted words speed limit, but I would like to turn attention for a moment to our Mississippi River. The Mississippi River is the third longest river in North America, and it is used for shipping. This river is now so dangerously low that in some places only one narrow, one-way lane is allowed. Any job on a towboat on the Mississippi is now dangerous. It is very difficult for a towboat captain to navigate one of these things in shallow water. At one point, I read where something like seven hundred towboats were lined up and waiting. There have been a number of reported groundings. Even more amazing is that, the US Army Corps of Engineers Dredges the Mississippi, just to keep shipping lanes open. The Mighty Mississippi currently sits at a near-record low level.

Here is a description from USA Today:

“It looks like a coastline out there,” said Reynold Minsky, president of the 5th Louisiana Levee District board. “There are more beaches on the river than there are in Florida.”

I do not yet see a numbers prediction on how much money the shipping industry stands to lose this season due to slowed boat movement, but the big picture here is that we are talking about the United States Heartland.