Nightly News | August 17, 2012
>> of the reasons the fire season has been so bad, the extreme drought that has much of the country in its grip. government forecasters say dry conditions will likely last through november in many areas from the west to the plains, midwest, and south. the lack of rain has some states taking extreme measures to get water where it's needed.
>> reporter: with no relief from above, they're now digging underground for water. it's part of a statewide emergency program to dig new wells for missouri farmers and ranchers like michelle christerpherson. her pastures are parched. she has been struggling to keep her 100 cattle fed and hydrated.
>> you don't like to see your live stock just walk up and die on you.
>> reporter: 95% of the state is suffering extreme levels of drought. those areas suffering the most jumped from roughly 14% to more than 35%. with fields withering and ponds drying up --
>> two inches of rain total.
>> reporter: farmer rusty lee has already lost much of his squash and corn crop and stands to lose more if he doesn't get help.
>> we'd be lost without that new well.
>> reporter: his current well just does not have the capacity to irrigate all of his 75 acres, forcing tough choices.
>> to try to keep some crops you'd have to sacrifice some. this is one of the fields that were sacrificed.
>> we need water quick. some of these people can't wait. they've been out of water for a while and it's just desperate.
>> reporter: so far more than 3700 missouri farmers have been approved for a new well. under the emergency program the state will pay up to 90% of the cost. farmers already cash strapped to pay for the rest. michelle christerpherson will have to take out a loan to pay the $12,000 for her new well but the sound of drilling is music to her ears. this is what you've been praying for.
>> that and a little rain.
>> reporter: after drilling 540 feet, one of her prayers was answered.
>> we have water. yes.
>> reporter: finding a fix means this rancher may now have a fighting chance. nbc news, truxton, missouri .