Journal Article

Estimating the Impact of Drought on Agriculture Using the U.S. Drought Monitor

Jul 10, 2018 | Yusuke Kuwayama, Alexandra Thompson, Peter Vail, Benjamin Zaitchik, Richard Bernknopf


We estimate the impacts of drought, as defined by the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), on crop yields and farm income in the United States during the 2001–2013 time period. Our empirical strategy relies on panel data models with fixed effects that exploit spatial and temporal variability in drought conditions and agricultural outcomes at the county level. We find negative and statistically significant effects of drought on crop yields equal to reductions in the range of 0.1% to 1.2% for corn and soybean yields for each additional week of drought in dryland counties, and 0.1% to 0.5% in irrigated counties. Region-specific results vary, with some regions experiencing no yield impacts from drought, while yield reductions as high as 8.0% are observed in dryland counties in the Midwest for every additional week of drought in the highest USDM severity category. Despite this impact on crop yields, we find that additional weeks of drought have little to no effect on measures of farm income. While precipitation and temperature explain most of the variability in crop yields, we find that the USDM captures additional negative impacts of drought on yields.