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Besides crop insurance, is there any relief for farmers affected by the drought?

Farmers who have been dragged down by the poor weather may be thrown into financial turmoil, as the drought conditions have destroyed many crops and left them without a way to pay for their production expenses, rents, land payments, mortgage, equipment payments and more. This is especially the case for farmers who do not have crop insurance.

Currently the U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated more than 1,000 counties as drought disaster areas and is allowing farmers to apply for federal disaster help and low interest rate loans. 

In Wisconsin, the governor has already declared a state of emergency in 42 southern counties in light of the drought conditions. This allows farms to temporarily use the lake or stream water for irrigation with the issuance of a 60-day permit. Farmers in these counties and in other states that have been affected should contact their local U.S. Farm Service Agency office to find out more about types of emergency assistance. For example, some will be allowed to use land that is set aside for conservation, but will be made available so that cattle can have hay that farms do not currently have available. 

Although these emergency programs can give some relief, the USDA’s crop insurance program is really the only way to make certain farmers will at least be covered for their production losses and seed and fertilizer costs related to the damaged corn and soybean crops. Unfortunately, many farmers will still be left with financial losses that crop insurance won’t cover, such as payments on farm machinery. 

Sadly, crop insurance will only take away some of the sting for some. For farmers who have inadequate crop insurance or don’t have crop insurance at all, they may have potential record losses due to their crop disaster from the drought conditions. As some farmers are waiting on their crop insurance claims to come through, others are hoping that disaster relief and additional emergency aid will become available. 

Severe drought damage is spreading quickly throughout Illinois, the acting director of the state Department of Agriculture said Tuesday. Bob Flider said he expects the federal government to announce additional emergency aid within days for a drought that shows no signs of easing.

“In fact, the forecast between now and the end of September is hotter and drier,” Flider said after announcing a new state marketing campaign for Illinois products at Schnucks supermarket in Sangamon Center North. He said the department and Gov. Pat Quinn are in contact with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has designated more than 1,000 counties nationwide as drought disaster areas, including 26 in southern Illinois.

The greatest damage has been done to the corn crop, but Flider said cattle farmers also have been hurt by the loss of summer hay. He said the agency is urging farmers to work with local Farm Service Agency offices to allow emergency use of land normally set aside for conservation. “It makes hay available to cattle that otherwise might not be available,” said Flider. “We’re working with the Farm Bureau trying to get that message to the local ag community, that they need to work with their FSA to make that case.

“Once they do, they can be declared a disaster area,” said Flider.

Under USDA rules, a county qualifies if it has been in a severe drought for at least eight weeks or has had an extreme drought during the growing season.

Bill Voss
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