Isaac a mixed bag for drought-plagued states

Cracked earth that is usually underwater is exposed on the west side of the Mud Island Marina in Memphis, Tenn. Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012.
Mike Brown,AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal

(AP) ST. LOUIS - Some key U.S. farm states punished by the nation's worst drought in decades benefited slightly from recent rains, with more rain on the way from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac.

The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday showed that the section of the continental U.S. in the worst two categories of drought - extreme and exceptional - remained relatively unchanged at 23.2 percent as of Tuesday.

The National Drought Mitigation Center's drought monitoring map, published Aug. 28, 2012.
The National Drought Mitigation Center's drought monitoring map, published Aug. 28, 2012.
University of Lincoln at Nebraska National Drought Mitigation Center

Concerns remained for crops in the U.S., which leads world production in corn, soybeans and wheat.

But after rains last weekend, the amount of Iowa in the two worst drought classifications fell by 9 percentage points to 58.3 percent. Illinois saw a 7 percentage point drop, while Kansas' numbers slid 6 points.

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Forecasters expected parts of the Midwest to get as much as 12 inches of rain within days due to Isaac, now a tropical storm.

Some farmers wondered whether too much relief was on the horizon. A deluge may be too little, too late for corn growers and could work against them by making fields too muddy to accommodate harvesting equipment. Strong winds could topple drought-weakened stalks.

"I don't want the wind," said Kenneth Metcalf, a 75-year-old Illinois farmer. "This corn is not at all that stable to start with."

The rains may not be enough to help corn growers anyway.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Monday that 52 percent of that crop was listed as being in very poor or poor shape. Soybeans, which could benefit from more rain because it's earlier in their growing season, were faring only slightly better, with 38 percent of that crop in very poor or poor shape.

Drought in America