Crops wilt in the hot, dry conditions.
Almost all of the counties in Illinois are now eligible for federal drought relief.
Because of a request made by Gov. Pat Quinn, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared 50 additional Illinois counties disaster areas, making them eligible to receive federal drought relief. This brings the total of Illinois counties eligible for federal assistance up to 98 out of a possible 102.
"While harvest has yet to begin, we already see that the drought has caused considerable crop damage," Quinn said Wednesday. "This declaration means farmers across Illinois who are suffering production losses can now qualify for federal assistance."
The federal assistance will be given to eligible farmers who contact their county Farm Service Agency offices to apply for a loan. The county will determine on a case-by-case basis whether a loan is appropriate based on a number of circumstances like the farmer's finances and the extent of their crop damage.
"The yield losses being projected could cause farmers cash flow problems,” Illinois Department of Agriculture Acting Director Bob Flider explained. "The low-interest, emergency loans this declaration triggers would help them recover. They can be used to pay not only production expenses, but also family living expenses."
The Illinois Farm Bureau has said this year is the sixth-driest year on record so far, with the average precipitation of 2012's first half just 12.6 inches, nearly seven inches below normal. Every month this year has had above-normal temperatures, and the statewide average of 52.8 degrees over the past sixth months is the warmest on record.
Quinn announced his plan to pledge state support for farmers and ranchers hit hard by the drought earlier in July.