The state agencies that make up the Drought Response Task Force in Illinois met in mid-July to provide recommendations and assistance in dealing with persistent dry weather in the state.
The Drought Response Task Force is chaired by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and includes experts from the Illinois departments of Agriculture, Water Survey, Public Health and the Emergency Management Agency. The Illinois State Water Survey reports that most of southern and central Illinois are considered in drought based on precipitation deficits of five inches or more dating back to July 2011, with deficits of eight inches or more in southeast Illinois and up to 12 inches in portions of west-central Illinois during that time. Northern Illinois is also dry, and if lack of rainfall persists, could be considered in the coming weeks. Updates on dry conditions can be found on the ISWS website at http://www.isws.illinois.edu/hilites/drought/.
“Early assessments indicate farmers will sustain substantial yield losses, especially in southern Illinois where much of the corn crop has been destroyed,” Illinois Department of Agriculture Acting Director Bob Flider said. “I appreciate Agriculture Secretary Vilsacks efforts to simplify the disaster declaration process. It will result in the immediate declaration of 26 Illinois counties as disaster areas and make farmers in those counties eligible for low-interest emergency loans that can be used to pay not only production expenses, but also essential family living expenses.”
Under new USDA rules announced today, a county automatically qualifies for a disaster designation once it is categorized by the U.S. Drought Monitor as being in a severe drought for eight or more consecutive weeks during the growing season. A formal request for the designation is no longer necessary.