Mental health workers and congressmen say they've been besieged by calls from farm families anguished because "now God's against us," as 10 governors prepared recommendations for federal action to save drought-stricken farms.
A persistent heat wave, meanwhile, continued to exacerbate the worst drought since the 1930s, though parts of the Northeast and Midwest enjoyed cooler weather on Thursday than the record-high temperatures of recent days.Showers and thunderstorms were scattered across much of the Southeast, the Gulf Coast and central Texas. The storms brought brief relief to some parched areas, including a half-inch of rain in sections of Missouri and a quarter-inch at Mobile, Ala.
In St. Louis, the medical examiner's office said that a 99-year-old woman whose body was found in a sweltering bedroom Wednesday had died from heat.
Scattered showers and thunderstorms were predicted Friday in parts of the Midwest, the Southeast and elsewhere. But the National Weather Service said the Plains and Midwest should have continued hot and dry weather for the rest of June.
Governors from North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Montana, Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin warned Thursday that the drought is seriously affecting food production.
The situation is "much more critical than we even realized," said Gov. George Sinner of North Dakota, chairman of the National Governors' Association's agriculture committee.
"I'm afraid we're going to lose some farmers, and we've lost enough already in my state," Sinner said after a Chicago meeting of 10 governors, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Richard Lyng, farm representatives and agricultural experts.
The governors agreed to 36 recommendations aimed at protecting farm income, encouraging conservation and efficient use of water supplies, and preventing early sales of livestock due to feed shortages.
Gov. George Mickelson of South Dakota said the meeting would only be successful "if we go to Washington and see that these things are actually implemented."
Lyng promised that the federal government "will do what is necessary to minimize the severity of the damage." He noted that 1,200 counties in 30 states have been granted permission to cut hay or graze cattle on government-rented land set aside for conservation or crop reduction.