The nation is suffering its worst drought in decades. Only in the 1930s and 1950s has a drought covered more land, a recent federal report noted.

The National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., said 55 percent of the country was in a moderate to extreme drought by the end of June. And thus far, despite a few showers here and there, things aren’t getting any better.

Topsoil has turned dry while “crops, pastures and rangeland have deteriorated at a rate rarely seen in the last 18 years,” the climate center said. The percentage of affected land is the largest since December 1956, when 58 percent of the country was covered by drought, and it rivals even some years in the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s, according to the data.

Corn, wheat and soybean crops have been hit hard, particularly in the traditionally productive Midwest

Cattle growers, with little productive rangeland and less corn for feed, have been selling off herds. In the short run, this might cause a dip in beef prices at the supermarket, but over the long haul, those prices are likely to rise.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture anticipates that food prices as a whole will rise by 3 percent next year. That’s an unsettling prospect when the economy continues to stagnate.

The Pueblo (Colo.) Chieftain (Aug. 9)