DES MOINES, Iowa - Hundreds of Iowans devastated by drought gathered at the fairgrounds Thursday night to hear from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
"This is as bad as it's been since 1988, and many would argue it's worse than 1988," said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.
For farmers, like Steve Lilly, the drought of 2012 just keeps getting worse.
"I farm about 600 acres. It's corn, soybeans, I have stock cow and of course, pasture and hay," Lilly said. "There's probably no easy fixes (to crops)."
Farmers said water supplies are drying up and cattle are hungry.
"It's going to be kind of a costly thing to get these cows through to grass time next year," Lilly said.
Livestock is also of utmost concern for agriculture officials.
"Our livestock folks are really suffering, and that's been the primary focus of our efforts to provide assistance early in the process," Vilsack said.
Vilsack said the U.S. Department of Agriculture is opening millions of acres for grazing, buying nearly $170 million worth of meat to help struggling producers and freeing nearly $30 million from funds.
"(The money is) to provide some degree of help for folks who may want to drill deeper wells for their own personal use, and to be able to get water to livestock," Vilsack said.
Crop insurance and emergency low-interest loans might also help those working in the fields, officials said.
"Nobody knows really what they have until they get a combine in there,"Northey said.
"In Iowa, things change. And you know, next year will probably be a good year," Lilly said. "We've gone a long time, but we're still hoping (for rain)."