Minnesota enters exceptional drought for first time on U.S. Drought Monitor

Minnesota had never been in the exceptional drought category since the inception of the modern U.S. Drought Monitor in 1994. That changed on this week's report.

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The U.S. Drought Monitor released on Aug. 12 put 7.37% of Minnesota into exceptional drought — the worst category on the map.

That's the first time that Minnesota has had any land in that category since the new U.S. Drought Monitor began in 1994, marking the 2021 drought as officially the worst since at least the 1988 drought, StormTRACKER meteorologist Jesse Ritka said.

Later on Thursday, United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the federal government's programs to support farmers experiencing drought were insufficient to meet the moment and committed to working with lawmakers to approve additional aid. Vilsack was visiting Minnesota to talk about the drought and was accompanied by U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith and U.S. Rep. Angie Craig.

Ritka said that while there is hope for both precipitation and lower temperatures later in August, there is no immediate drought relief on the horizon.

Here is a state-by-state look at this week’s Drought Monitor:


Iowa: Iowa's drought condition did not change much in the past week, though a small portion of the state moved from severe drought to extreme drought. Extreme drought now makes up 7.15% of Iowa, compared to 6.95% last week.

Minnesota: Minnesota's overall condition worsened since last week, though some parts of the state did receive helpful rain. In addition to the 7.37% of the state in exceptional drought, more than a third of the state remains in extreme drought and another third in severe drought.

Montana: Conditions did not change much in Montana this week, as 98.7% of the state remains in severe drought or worse.

Nebraska: Conditions worsened slightly in Nebraska, with every category of drought growing a little. The state has 82.35% of land now in drought conditions, compared to 75.48% last week.

North Dakota: While part of southern North Dakota received beneficial rain, the entire state remains in rough shape. Nearly three-quarters of the state now is in extreme or exceptional drought, with both categories growing slightly since last week. However, a small amount of land that last week was in severe drought did drop off into moderate drought this week.

South Dakota: More than a quarter of South Dakota now is in extreme drought. Overall, conditions deteriorated statewide, as the entire state now is in some drought category.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin remains the bright spot in the region for drought conditions. With heavy rain centering on the state, 68.55% of Wisconsin now is out of any drought conditions.

Jenny Schlecht is the editor of Agweek and Sugarbeet Grower Magazine. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at or 701-595-0425.
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