* Cooler, wetter weather eases drought in Midwest
* Midwest to get more rain from Isaac over next 5 days
* High Plains mostly dry, drought worsens in Dakotas
By Karl Plume
Aug 30 (Reuters) - The worst U.S. drought in a half century
loosened its grip on the Midwest in the past week, helped by
rain and cooler temperatures, but the drought grew more dire in
the northern Plains, a report from climate experts said on
But the improved Midwest weather arrived too late for crops
in major farm states such as Kansas, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana,
where severe corn and soybean yield losses have already been
The portion of the contiguous United States suffering from
at least "severe" drought fell to 42.34 percent from 44.03
percent over the prior week, according to the Drought Monitor, a
weekly synthesis representing a consensus climatologists.
The percentage of the Midwest in that category slipped to
49.96 from 51.06 the previous week, with the most notable
improvement in Indiana, 64.07 percent of which was under severe
drought or worse, down from 81.48 percent a week ago.
Top corn and soybean producer Iowa remained fully under
severe drought or worse, but the portion of the state deemed
under "extreme" drought fell to 58.30 percent from 67.54 a week
Illinois, the No. 2 corn and soy grower, was gauged to be
69.56 percent under extreme drought or worse, down from 76.72
percent last week.
Conditions also improved considerably in Michigan while
marginal improvements were noted in Ohio, Missouri and
"After a very dry summer, some areas have been in a wetter
and cooler pattern over the last several weeks," said Brian
Fuchs of the National Drought Mitigation Center.
"Where the heaviest rains occurred, improvements were made,
but it should be noted that many of the row crops will not
benefit from these rains and pastures have had minimal
improvement so far," he added.
More rain from tropical depression Isaac, which came ashore
in Louisiana as a category 1 hurricane on Tuesday, was expected
over the next five days in Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and
Key farming and ranching states Kansas, Nebraska and
Oklahoma received some rain in the past week, but the majority
of the central and northern Plains remained dry.
The six-state High Plains region was 79.12 percent under
severe drought or worse, up from 76.96 percent a week ago.
Extreme drought or worse covered 90.14 percent of Kansas,
down from 96.43 percent a week ago, while the area of the
country's top winter wheat state under "exceptional" drought,
the highest category, dropped to 55.18 percent from 66.93.
Nebraska, which remained fully under severe drought or
worse, saw only a slight improvement in the far southeast corner
of the state. Meanwhile, severe drought expanded across the
(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Marguerita