MADISON, Wis. - The drought in southern Wisconsin has been officially declared severe with little rain in sight.
Thursday's new map from the U.S. Drought Monitor rates the southern third of Wisconsin, which had been in a moderate drought, as severe drought, including Milwaukee and Madison. Other parts of Wisconsin are in a moderate drought or abnormally dry.
The severe drought covered all or part of 18 counties: Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Iowa, Grant, Green, Jefferson, Kenosha, Lafayette, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Richland, Rock, Sauk, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha.
This latest report was released Thursday morning. To see the complete map, click here.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the drought could spell the end for some farmers who already are struggling, especially dairy farmers still trying to recover from low milk prices in 2009 who now face the prospect of buying expensive hay to feed cows this winter.
Experts from UW Extension are posting advice daily at a special website set up for the drought of 2012 at http://fyi.uwex.edu/drought2012/. Questions are pouring in to extension agents.
Gov. Scott Walker has already issued a drought emergency for 42 Wisconsin counties, but Dane County Executive Joe Parisi is calling on the governor to do more to help dairy farmers.
Parisi is asking the governor to expedite a federal disaster declaration. Parisi said if crops don't develop, farmers will have to buy feed this winter for their herds or sell their herds all together.
In a letter to Walker, Parisi said, "A disaster declaration will allow our farmers access to additional forms of assistance, including U.S. Department of Agriculture loan programs."
The National Weather Service said the last time portions of southern Wisconsin were in a severe drought was in the summer of 2005. A small portion of Wisconsin's southeast was even under an extreme drought.
The NWS said June temperatures averaged five degrees above normal in southern Wisconsin and eight to 10 degrees above normal for the first half of July.
The NWS said the region has seen an average deficit of 5 inches of rainfall during that period. The NWS said these hot and dry days have led to dry soil and stressful conditions for crops. The lack of rain and soil moisture during the upcoming pollination stage of corn will likely damage much of the crop, according to the NWS.
According to statistics from the NWS, there is 0 percent of adequate soil moisture for crops in the south-central region of Wisconsin. It's only at 5 percent for the southwest region of the state and 1 percent for Wisconsin's southeast region.
The drought is also prompting the Department of Natural Resources to extend its burn ban to several central Wisconsin counties.
New burning restrictions are in place in Jackson, Monroe, Waupaca, Wood, Portage and Waushara counties, plus portions of Adams and Juneau counties are now under these restrictions.
Burn bans are still in effect for all of Columbia, Green Lake, Marquette and Sauk counties. The northern part of Iowa County and the northwestern part of Dane County are also under the DNR restrictions.
Under the burning restrictions, all fireworks, campfires, burn piles and smoking outside are prohibited.
The DNR also prohibited campfires at four Wisconsin State Parks system properties, including areas of Kettle Moraine State Forest. This campfire ban and burning restrictions will be effective as of Friday at 12:01 a.m.
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