The most widespread drought in the U.S. since 1988 has prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to issue a natural disaster declaration for about 1,000 counties in 26 states, making farm operators eligible for low interest emergency loans. As of July 10, about 78 percent of the corn-growing region in the U.S. were experiencing some form of drought, and drought conditions have intensified in many corn-growing regions during the past several weeks. Bloomberg News characterized the natural disaster declaration as the largest such declaration in the USDA's history. In a move that reflects the “expected impacts of persistent and extreme June and early-July dryness and heat across the central and eastern Corn Belt,” the USDA’s World Agricultural Outlook Board cut the estimate for the 2012 U.S. corn crop by 1.82 billion bushels on July 11, which is a 12 percent cut. As recently as this spring, farmers were looking forward to one of the largest corn crops in years, thanks to a mild winter and ample precipitation.