What a difference a month makes. The ERS here charts the change in the percentage of farms, crops and acreage affected by the drought from mid June to mid July.

[imgcontainer right] [img:drought_june_to_july.png] [source]ERS[/source] What a difference a month makes. The ERS here charts the change in the percentage of farms, crops and acreage affected by the drought from mid-June to mid-July. [/imgcontainer]

The drought is so bad that “some insurance carriers are privately estimating that crop claims nationwide could total $40 billion or more this season, nearly four times the all-time record of $10.8 billion in 2011,” reports Marcia Zarley Taylor at DTN, quoting an official at Farm Credit Services.

However, Taylor also quotes a Kansas State economist as saying that $40 billion figure was “el Toro poo poo.” Crop conditions are better than that, says Art Barnaby.

• Talk about getting everything out of the jar…… Iowa Gov. Terry Branstand said Friday that farmers can mow in highway rights of way to get extra cattle feed.

All they have to do is get permission from the Department of Transportation.

“Harvesting grass along the side of state roads is an efficient and economical means for farmers to maintain their livestock levels,” the governor said, showing good Midwestern common sense.

• Diette Courrege reports on a program aimed at fighting the drain of young people out of rural areas. Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, started the program. Courrege describes:

The pilot program kicked off this summer with eight at-risk, low-income students. The goal was to educate them on the way their rural communities function, as well as encourage them to think about staying in or returning to their rural homes.

Students took part in a three-day summer camp, during which they completed a community mapping exercise, toured city and county offices, and explored local businesses. They were asked to think critically about local issues and develop a community project; they’ve planned a letter-writing campaign in support of restoring a courthouse.

• Forget the heat, writes Robert Krier at InsideClimate News. Get a load of the hail!

The Storm Prediction Center reports that there were 500 more reports of one-inch diameter or larger hail in the first half of this year than the average for 2005 through 2011. Krier reports on some of the more astounding hail events:

— On April 12, pea-sized hail pelted northern Texas near Amarillo. Nothing remarkable there—except the volume. There was so much, mixed with rain, that snowplows had to be called out to clear 4-foot-high drifts.

— Two days later, another high-volume storm, the likes of which long-time residents said they’d never seen before, inundated Norfolk, Neb., leaving 3-foot drifts in spots.

— On April 28, baseball- to softball-sized hail pummeled the St. Louis area. About 50,000 cars were damaged. Individual insurance claims, including for home roofs and sidings, could top 80,000 in Missouri, according to the property claims services unit of Verisk Analytics. Insured losses are estimated at $450 million, but the total loss should be much higher when uninsured damage is included.

— On June 13, what appears to have been the largest hail of the year fell on Dallas. Early estimates put damages at $900 million or more, which would make the hailstorm the fifth most costly in Texas history. Damage claims totaled about 130,000.

• The AP is reporting that two bills important to rural America have been put on hold by the House — the Farm Bill and the Postal Service reform bill.

The AP says House leaders have put these two measures on hold because they are “wary of igniting internal party fights or risking voters’ ire three months before the election.”

“There is no excuse not to bring the farm bill to the floor,” Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, said Friday. “We’ve wasted the last two weeks on political messaging bills that are going nowhere.”

The AP says there is no indication these bills will be taken up before Congress departs for a five-week August recess.

• Good breakdown here of Iowa politics.

• Welcome to Twang That Vote — subtitled “It’s About Time D.C. Listened to Some Country.”

This is the country version of Rock the Vote and its aim is to bring the values of country music into the political process. Politico reports:

“There’s 100 million self-identified country music fans around the country,” said founder Max Hamel. “And the demographics were surprising to us. … When you’re talking about 100 million people, it looks very much like the United States as a whole.” Hamel said he was especially surprised that most people who identified themselves as country music fans were women, and he was taken aback by just how far removed from the political process many of them were.

“It looks like there’s about 40 [million] to 50 million who are not registered to vote or vote infrequently,” said Hamel, adding that those numbers instantly gave his organization part of its objective.

“The mission is to identify them, educate them about the importance of voting and turn them out,” he said.

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