The U.S. National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) says that 55 percent of the Lower 48 states suffered from moderate to extreme drought in June, the largest area affected by drought since 1956. With searing heat and drought conditions only intensifying in July, corn and soybean crops in the U.S. Midwest are suffering badly, threatening to increase food and fuel prices and cut food aid and grain exports from the world’s top producer of key crops. “We’re moving from a crisis to a horror story,” said Purdue University agronomist Tony Vyn. “I see an increasing number of fields that will produce zero grain.” The current drought now covers a larger area than the famous 1936 drought, although other droughts in the Dust Bowl years — particularly the extreme drought of 1934 — still rank higher, the NCDC said in a report. Several years of drought in the mid-1950s were also worse than the current dry spell, which is the sixth most severe drought since the U.S. began keeping records in 1895.