WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2013 - A new report released yesterday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirms what many American farmers may have known instinctually: 2012 was the hottest year on record for the contiguous United States.

“The heat was remarkable,” Jake Crouch, a scientist with the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., told the New York Times. “That we beat the record by one degree is quite a big deal.”

It was a year that smashed records, with NOAA’s “State of the Climate” reporting the average temperature for 2012 at 55.3°F, 3.3°F above the 20th century average.

Equally important for farmers is precipitation section of the NOAA report, which notes that 2012 was the 15th driest year in the nation’s history. 61 percent of the nation was affected by drought in 2012, with lower precipitation rates hitting traditional “bread basket” states especially hard.

The record heat affected most agriculture sectors.

In Pennsylvania, extreme, dry heat lead to a quicker maturation among corn corps while the lack of water slowed the silking process, decreasing the probability of successfully pollinated crops. In early July, 37 percent of the state’s corn crops were ready to pollinate – compared to 6 percent in 2011.

Ranchers sold cattle months ahead of schedule this year, as the livestock struggled to survive in baked fields with limited feed.

“If we’re running out of grass and we’re not growing enough feed crops to feed them the other six months of the year, what do you do?” asked R. Scott Barrows, director of Kansas State University’s Golden Prairie District extension office, in July. “You liquidate.”

Yesterday, USDA designated 597 counties in 14 states as primary natural disaster areas due to drought and heat.



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