CHANNAHON – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich and Illinois Farm Bureau President Philip Nelson walked through farm fields in Peoria and Will counties today to get a closer look at the damage caused by this summer’s severe drought conditions. Blagojevich, who Monday requested United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Mike Johanns declare all 102 Illinois counties natural disaster areas to make farmers eligible for federal disaster assistance, announced on the tour that he has dispatched Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke to Washington, D.C., to meet with Secretary Johanns and Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Barack Obama to discuss the urgency of the request.
“Illinois is suffering through one of the worst droughts in 100 years and our farmers have been hit the hardest so far,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “These farmers are the backbone of our number one industry in Illinois, and this tremendous loss can effect us all if they do not get the assistance they need to get their families through the next year and plant a healthy crop in the spring.”
The latest agricultural summary compiled by the National Agriculture Statistic Service (NASS) for the week ending July 24 reports 56 percent Illinois’ corn crop and 33 percent of the soybean crops is rated very poor to poor. Drought conditions are inviting additional problems to fields including rootworm and Japanese beetles in cornfields and spider mites and aphids in soybean fields.
“The numbers add up to a very tough year for Illinois farmers,” Illinois Farm Bureau President Philip Nelson said. “We recognize drought conditions are far worse in northern Illinois, but farmers throughout the state have suffered due to unusually dry conditions. The Governor has reached out to the federal government for help and we appreciate his efforts and will do whatever we can to help farmers get back on their feet.”
Hurricane Dennis brought widespread rainfall to parts of Illinois two weeks ago, but it was not enough to improve the drought situation in most of the state. Joliet, for instance, has received 6.34 inches of precipitation since May 1, half its normal rainfall for the period, and Peoria still has received only 2.23 inches of rain, nearly nine inches below its normal figure.
Gov. Blagojevich and Farm Bureau President Nelson toured the Bob Bleuer farm in Will County, and the Ted Harding farm in Peoria County. Combined, the two men have more than 90 years of farming experience.
A response to the Governor’s request for disaster assistance is expected from the USDA within two to three weeks. A disaster declaration would allow farmers to apply for USDA assistance, including low-interest emergency loans. Farmers can borrow up to 100 percent of their actual production or physical losses through the program, as long as the amount does not exceed $500,000.