SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced federal disaster assistance is available to help farmers recover from an April freeze that wiped-out much of their crops, especially in southern Illinois.
The United States Department of Agriculture has granted the Governor’s request to designate 55 Illinois counties as natural disaster areas. The designation qualifies farmers in those counties and 26 contiguous counties who sustained production losses between April 3 and April 11 for USDA assistance, including low-interest emergency loans.
“Losses of this magnitude certainly could cause financial hardship, especially for small operations,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “The loans that this declaration triggers can help them recover. They can be used not only to pay production costs, but also to refinance existing debt and cover essential family living expenses.”
Temperatures in early April dropped to the low 20s and high teens across the state. While not unprecedented, the cold caused heavy damage because it followed an extremely warm March that accelerated crop development, leaving early-budding fruit trees vulnerable to a prolonged freeze. The average March temperature was 6.5 degrees above normal, making the month the sixth-warmest March on record since 1895.
Illinois’ $13 million peach crop was especially hard hit. Reports indicate it may be a total loss. Winter wheat also sustained significant damage that could cost farmers more than $30 million. According to the latest USDA crop statistics, 160,000 planted acres of Illinois wheat were not harvested, or 17 percent of the entire crop. Most was destroyed because of freeze damage and re-planted with corn or soybeans.
The 55 counties declared as primary disaster areas are:
Adams Fayette Johnson Monroe Schuyler
Alexander Franklin Kankakee Montgomery Scott
Bond Fulton Knox Morgan Shelby
Calhoun Gallatin Lawrence Perry St. Clair
Champaign Greene Macon Pike Union
Christian Hamilton Macoupin Pope Vermilion
Clay Hancock Madison Pulaski Wabash
Clinton Hardin Marion Randolph Washington
Crawford Jackson Massac Richland Wayne
Cumberland Jefferson McDonough Saline White
Edwards Jersey Menard Sangamon Williamson
The 26 contiguous counties approved for disaster assistance include:
Brown Edgar Henry Mason Piatt
Cass Effingham Iroquois McLean Stark
Clark Ford Jasper Mercer Tazewell
Coles Grundy Livingston Moultrie Warren
De Witt Henderson Logan Peoria Will
Farmers and fruit growers who believe they may qualify for disaster assistance should contact their county Farm Service Agency office. Staff in county Farm Service Agency offices can verify whether producers have crops that are eligible for emergency funds. Applications are considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and applicant’s repayment ability.