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Agri-Pulse reports:

A third of California is now in the worst state of drought classified by the U.S. Drought Monitor, with the "exceptional drought" designation expanding to 33 percent late last week from the 25 percent recorded one week earlier.

Federal officials say the upsurge is attributable to not only a lack of rain, but also additional data that gives them a better understanding of the impact of three years of well-below-normal precipitation.

The drought is hurting the state's agriculture sector and is expected to drive up food prices across the country. The state accounts for nearly half of all U.S. fruits and vegetables, including nearly all of its broccoli, and just about all of its walnuts and almonds.

Officials at the University of California Davis say the price of rice will likely jump as much as 20 percent this year.

A recent study from the university warns that as the drought worsens and denies access to groundwater, "this year's drought would be truly devastating to farms and cities throughout California."

The designation in California comes as officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said May was the hottest month globally ever since records started being kept in 1880.

Officials say the record heat, along with increasingly certain predictions of an El Niņo weather pattern coming later this year, suggest 2014 could become the hottest year on record.

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