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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 7, 2007

Gov. Blagojevich’s Request for Agricultural Disaster Declaration Approved
Declaration will assist farmers in 81 Illinois counties

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
Douglas
 
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.


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