Governor Pat Quinn today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared 98 of 102 Illinois counties as disaster areas. Approval of Governor Quinn's latest request means federal disaster assistance is now available to help farmers in an additional 50 drought-stricken Illinois counties.
"Today's announcement demonstrates the essential need for expanding assistance to Illinois' farmers suffering from this summer's extreme drought," said a spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). "Access to low-interest loans and other emergency assistance programs will benefit the state's agricultural counties and provide farmers additional protection from crop damage."
"While harvest has yet to begin, we already see that the drought has caused considerable crop damage," Governor Quinn said. "This declaration means farmers across Illinois who are suffering production losses can now qualify for federal assistance."
A combination of extremely hot and dry weather has stunted crop development across the state, especially in corn, which received inadequate moisture to pollinate. According to the Illinois State Water Survey, precipitation throughout Illinois averaged just 12.6 inches from January to June, making the first half of 2012 the sixth-driest on record. In addition, every month this year has had above normal temperatures, and the statewide average of 52.8 degrees for the first six months of the year is the warmest on record.
"As Illinois continues to suffer from severe drought conditions, this disaster declaration will give farmers and producers across our state access to critically needed resources to help them through the growing season," said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). "I will continue to work with United States Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, Governor Quinn and the State of Illinois to identify other opportunities for federal assistance that will help minimize the impact of current drought conditions on Illinois farm families."
"The yield losses being projected could cause farmers cash flow problems," Illinois Department of Agriculture Acting Director Bob Flider said. "The low-interest, emergency loans this declaration triggers would help them recover. They can be used to pay not only production expenses, but also family living expenses."
Topsoil moisture in Illinois currently is rated as 85 percent being very short and 15 percent being short of moisture. Conditions are most critical in southern Illinois, where the U.S. Drought Monitor classifies the drought as "exceptional," its highest designation.
Farmers who believe they may be eligible for the assistance should contact their county Farm Service Agency offices. Loan applications are considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and applicant's repayment ability.
In addition to approval of the disaster declaration, Governor Quinn is urging Congress to pass an extension of the federal Farm Bill that includes funding for disaster programs before its August recess. In a letter sent yesterday from the Midwest Governor's Association to Secretary Vilsack and leaders of Congress, Governor Quinn and governors from three states also ask the federal government to temporarily waive audits of high-dollar crop insurance claims and to develop a comprehensive plan to open up as much federal land as possible for emergency grazing and haying.