Drought is blistering key U.S. cash crops, further elevating prices for staples including corn and wheat.

The punishing dynamics of a torrid summer were evident this month on the Pro Farmer Crop Tour, an annual event in which farmers visit key growing areas across the grain belt to gather data on the coming harvest. Driving along state Route 14 outside of Verdigre, Neb., Randy Wiese turned to see a farmer harvesting hay. The piles were small.

“That farmer is sick to his stomach,” said Mr. Wiese, who farms 800 acres of soybeans and corn in Lake Park, Iowa.

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