Governor Rod Blagojevich recently announced that federal assistance has been granted to help farmers in 44 counties in west and southwest Illinois who suffered crop loss last year because of the drought. Precipitation in west central Illinois was six to eight inches below normal during the 2006 growing season from May to September. Rainfall totals were off two to four inches in southwestern Illinois.
The Illinois workers aid is good news for the farmers, and for the thousands of agricultural workers that they employ.
The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) has designated 23 counties as natural disaster areas. This qualifies farmers in the area for USDA assistance programs including low-interest emergency loans. The 23 counties declared as primary disaster areas include Adams, Bond, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Fayette, Greene, Hancock, Henderson, Jersey, Macoupin, Madison, McDonough, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Randolph, Schuyler, Scott, St. Clair, Warren, Washington and Wayne counties.
“While farmers in many parts of the state harvested record crops, farmers in west and southwest Illinois suffered significant production losses because of drought,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “High grain prices will offset some of the losses, but the assistance provided by this declaration could be crucial for those farmers whose income this year cannot pay production costs and essential family living expenses.”
Under the USDA disaster relief program, farmers in 21 contiguous counties also qualify for benefits. The 21 contiguous Illinois counties include Christian, Clay, Clinton, Edwards, Effingham, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Jackson, Jefferson, Knox, Marion, Mason, Menard, Mercer, Morgan, Pike, Rickland, Sangamon, Shelby and White counties.
Farmers who believe they may be eligible for the assistance should contact their county Farm Service Agency office. Factors considered for the low-interest disaster relief loans include the extent of losses, security and the applicant’s ability to repay the loan. The deadline for loan applications under the program is September 5, 2007.
In order to qualify for federal disaster assistance, counties must experience at least a 30 percent decline in the production of any single crop. Assistance can also be obtained if farmers no longer qualify for commercial credit due to disaster-related losses.
“Overall, 2006 was an excellent crop year. Unfortunately, not every farmer will share the bounty because of the drought in western and southwestern Illinois,” Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke said. “Even within the impacted areas, though, our records indicate yields were variable – some farmers managed to salvage a decent crop while others didn’t. These loans will help those who didn’t receive timely rains to recover.”