Drought's painful impact spreading like wildfire.

Drought is nothing new in southwest Kansas.

Even after receiving encouraging rainfall at times this year, the region has again slipped to well below normal precipitation for the year.

Just a few months ago, local precipitation totals were above average. How quickly things change for the worse.

And now, a sizable swath of the nation is mired in a serious dry spell, as well.

The country's widest drought in decades is spreading, with more than half of the continental United States now in some stage of drought, and much of the rest of the nation with abnormally dry conditions.

By the end of June, unusually warm and dry weather had left some 55 percent of the country in moderate to extreme drought.

The conditions have ravaged crops, and corn in particular.

About a third of the nation's corn crop has been damaged. On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 38 percent of corn in poor or very poor condition, compared with 30 percent a week earlier.

Figures in Kansas are even more dismal. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported more than half of the state's corn crop in poor to very poor condition, and soybeans and sorghum aren't much better off.

Livestock producers have their own issues in dried-up pastures and dwindling hay and stock water supplies.

Sadly, the discouraging scene is playing out nationwide. Even states such as Iowa and Illinois that usually enjoy plentiful rainfall are dealing with drought.

As producers throughout the country are left to wonder how costly the drought will be, some relief is headed their way from the federal government in reduced interest rates for emergency loans, and a move to make it cheaper for farmers to graze livestock or cut hay on land otherwise locked up in a conservation program.

In Kansas, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently declared 82 counties federal disaster areas, making ag producers eligible for disaster assistance programs.

All of the fallout is nothing new in a part of the country that's accustomed to drought and its toll the kind of pain sure to punish even more producers and consumers, unfortunately.