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Minnesota's Worst Drought In Decade To Likely Impact Produce, Gas Prices

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's been nine years since drought conditions in Minnesota were this bad.

More than half the state is under severe or extreme drought conditions, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' drought monitor. That's up from about 40% earlier this month.

Pete Boulay, assistant state climatologist with the DNR, says the drought of 2012 lasted for more than a year, while our current drought is only in its fourth month.

"We've a lot of the water in the soil in the top 2 feet, so that comparison about 2012 is when we lost a lot of water in the soil," Boulay said.

Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen says the state's going through a gut punch right now of dryness and excessive heat.

"It's really just really frustrating every morning to look at that and know that our farmers are feeling the same thing," Petersen said. "Every day we hope for rain and hope things turn around."

(credit: CBS)

Minnesota's farm economy is diverse, dependent on both crops and livestock. But crops and grass can struggle to grow in these conditions, which is a problem Carla Mertz is feeling acutely on her livestock farm, Iron Shoe Farm, in Sherburne County.

"Our pastures are pretty barren, meaning we really don't have anything for the cattle to eat," Mertz said. "We aren't getting the consistent weight gain that they need to have."

Petersen says apple orchards, the fruits and veggies at your local farmers market, and pumpkin patches this fall could all suffer.

As he and Gov. Tim Walz advocate for federal aid and resources, Petersen urges water conservation. He says shorter showers and less lawn watering, for example, can make a difference for everyone.

It's possible that drought conditions could also impact prices at the gas pump. WCCO spoke to an oil and gas expert who said if corn yields around the country take a hit from this weather, gas prices could go up in the future.

The state needs at least another 5 inches of rain over a few weeks to really see an improvement in the drought.

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