Feds declare statewide agricultural disaster

All 102 counties designated; Pritzker welcomes federal emergency resources

Flooding hits Valley City earlier this year. (Illinois National Guard/Barbara Wilson)

Flooding hits Valley City earlier this year. (Illinois National Guard/Barbara Wilson)

By Ted Cox

The entire state of Illinois was declared an agricultural disaster Thursday.

Gov. Pritzker welcomed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s formal designation for all 102 state counties, which will free the way for farmers and other agricultural businesses to obtain Farm Service Agency emergency loans and other federal resources.

“Illinois farmers have experienced months of hardship due to extreme weather across the state, but today’s declaration means we can begin the road to recovery,” Pritzker said in a statement. “I’m heartened that the USDA has approved my request for an agriculture disaster so a vital industry that supports so many working families across the state can rebuild and continue to thrive in our state.”

Pritzker petitioned the federal government a month ago for what’s termed a Secretarial Disaster Declaration. According to the Governor’s Office, it “will provide new federal resources to aid recovery efforts,” including low-interest FSA emergency loans that can be used to “restore or replace essential property, cover production costs, pay essential family living expenses, reorganize the family farming operation, or refinance certain non-real-estate operating debts.”

“The Secretarial Disaster Declaration is a recognition of the extreme weather conditions Illinois farmers have faced this planting season,” said John Sullivan, director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture. “I thank Gov. Pritzker for his leadership in pursuing this relief and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue for his responsiveness to providing this needed assistance to Illinois’s agricultural community.”

Illinois farmers have been struggling to catch up after planting was delayed by heavy rains and almost statewide flooding this spring. The latest USDA Crop Progress report released Monday saw the quality of corn and soybeans backsliding slightly after much progress had been made in the comeback.

The percentage of silking corn rose from 59 percent the week before to 81 percent as of the end of last week, but that was still well behind the 97 percent average over the last five years at this time of the season, while last year at this point the entire crop was silking. The percentage of corn rated poor or very poor also rose to 22 percent from 18 percent the week before.

The percentage of soybeans blooming rose from 52 percent the week before to 72 percent through the end of last week, still well behind the five-year average of 90 percent. The percentage of the crop rated poor or worse likewise rose from 20 percent to 24 percent.

The RFD Radio Network quoted Jersey County farmer Jeff Guilander as saying, “A few fields of very early corn look very, very good,” but he added, “We’re not close to average.”

The Governor’s Office shared a link to a webpage on FSA emergency loans.