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Farmer says Arkansas drought turns cattle ranch into 'desert'

NBC's Janet Shamlian reports from Arkansas, where severe drought has turned pasture into "desert," threatening the future of the cattle ranching industry.

ATKINS, Ark. — Drought now covers more than half of the lower 48 states but few have it as rough as Arkansas, where the entire state is listed as suffering from lower than average precipitation.

"It's just devastating," cattle rancher Karen Haralson told NBC News. Having never seen her land this barren, she compares her ranch to "a desert."


Haralson has had to sell 100 of her 250 cows and ranchers across drought-hit areas are doing the same -- a trend that could raise beef prices next year, when fewer cows will be around to sell.

Forecasters say four to six inches of rain are needed to end the drought in Arkansas. Some rain is likely over the next few days, but there's nothing that significant on the horizon.

Indeed, drought conditions have only expanded and intensified in recent weeks, according to the weekly Drought Monitor compiled by the National Weather Service.

The service's Seasonal Drought Outlook for July-September offered little reason for hope. Arkansas was among the states were drought conditions were expected to persist.

For Haralson and other ranchers there's a real possibility of going bust.

"If no significant rain comes," she said, "I'll have to go out of business."

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