State Could Seek Federal Disaster Declaration to Help Farmers


CHAMPAIGN COUNTY--Farmer Jeff Suits has been farming since the 1980s and he says this year is unlike any other.

"I have never seen anything like this," said Suits, who farms corn and soybeans in Penfield. 

After the wettest June on record in Illinois, with rainfall averaging five inches above normal, many fields remain flooded in July, prompting Governor Bruce Rauner to seek federal assistance. 

"Based on a request from state government we are looking for a secretarial disaster declaration," said Scherrie Giamanco, state executive director at the USDA-FSA. 

Farm Service Agencies in counties across the state are compiling disaster assessment surveys, which should be in by the end of Wednesday. 

Those will then be sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for review, while state agricultural entities will have a conference Monday to decide whether federal relief is needed.

"We'll talk about what their situation is and whether we need to move forward with the disaster declaration," said Giamanco.

If approved, the declaration will allow farmers statewide to apply for disaster assistance loans.

"They're low interest loans," said Giamanco. "But we only loan money out with the full intention that they will repay it, it's not a grant."

Officials say the hardest hit farms are in Iroquois and Kankakee counties, but the full extent of the damage won't be known until harvest. 

"Guys in the airplanes say that it's bad when you look up from the tops," said Suits. "It's hard to see from the roads, we'll know more once we get in there. It will be tough to tell."

After a year of weather that's been tough on farmers and their fields.

The USDA reports 16 percent of the state's corn crop is currently in poor or very poor condition.

When it comes to soybeans, that number is higher with 20 percent of the soybean crop in poor or very poor condition statewide.

In addition, more than 40 percent of the topsoil in fields across the state is saturated by water right now.

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