Nick Stanek is a third-generation corn and soybean farmer near La Farge, Wisconsin. He worries that if the drought continues, he may lose his crops.

This summer, the Midwest has experienced a period of intense drought that threatens the health of the region’s cash crops. 

The 12 Midwestern states are also the top 12 corn-producing states in terms of bushels produced, based on data from the 2017 Census of Agriculture. When corn grows in drought conditions, a variety of complications — smaller leaves, smaller ears and reduced number of kernels — can result in a lower overall yield, depending on what growth stage it is in. 

Since the start of summer, the percentage of United States corn in drought areas peaked at 70% during the week of June 27, according to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

While still at high levels, the drought has eased some in the region. Weekly Drought Monitor reports show a general downward trend in the overall percentage of corn in drought, landing at 59% during the week of July 25, a full month after the peak.

The graphic below shows, for each Midwestern state, the percentage point difference of corn located in drought between the week of June 27 and the week of July 25. 

DATA ANALYSIS: The U.S. Drought Monitor releases weekly reports that include percentages for the amount of corn located in drought in each state that week. Investigate Midwest took the percentages from the most recent report — the week of July 25 — and subtracted the June 27 percentages. For example, Michigan had 79% of corn in drought on June 27 and 10% on July 25, so 69% less of the state’s corn is in drought.

The U.S. Drought Monitor uses 2017 Census of Agriculture statistics to determine each state’s contribution to national corn production and uses these numbers to choose which states to feature on their “Percent of Corn Located in Drought” graphs. All 12 Midwestern states make up the top 12. 

Talia Duffy is a Gary Marx Journalism Fund intern.

Type of work:

News Article Article pages that do not meet specifications for other Trust Project Type of Work labels and also do not fit within the general news category.

Talia Duffy is a student at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, where she is majoring in journalism and statistics. She has worked on the Daily Illini, the campus student newspaper. Duffy's internship...