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USDA designates Champaign & Vermilion counties as primary natural disaster areas

In this July 11, 2012 photo, a farmer holds a piece of his drought - and heat-stricken corn while chopping it down for feed in Nashville, Ill. Scientists have connected man-made climate change to extreme weather, including deadly heat waves, droughts and flood-inducing downpours.

After severe droughts in July and August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated Champaign and Vermilion counties as primary natural disaster areas.

With that announcement, farmers with 30% crop loss, can apply for low-interest, emergency loans. This can help replace equipment or refinance certain debts.

John Gehrke heads the loan program at the USDA Illinois Farm Service Agency. Gehrke said his office is here to help farmers throughout the process.

“We’re not going to know until harvest is over what the results are,” said Gehrke. “But we wanted to be prepared in the event that there are some things we can do with the disaster assistance.”

Douglas, Edgar, Ford, Iroquois, McLean, and Piatt counties in Illinois, and Benton, Vermillion and Warren Counties in Indiana, are also eligible for USDA assistance. All are adjacent to the two designated disaster area counties, Champaign and Vermilion. 

Gehrke said he’s seen “fairly strong” crop yields statewide, but that some areas, like Champaign and Vermilion counties, were particularly impacted by the summer droughts.

“There’s gonna be pockets where the weather just didn’t cooperate,” Gehrke said. “So, my suggestion to farmers in these areas that were affected by the drought is to wait until harvest is complete.”

According to a new study from World Weather Attribution, an international group of scientists, climate change made summer drought 20 times more likely.

Harrison Malkin is a reporter for Illinois Public Media. Follow him @HarrisonMalkin

Editor’s Note: To find your local USDA FSA office, click here. To see your loan options, click here.

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Harrison Malkin

Harrison Malkin

Harrison Malkin is a politics reporter at Illinois Public Media. He's focusing on elections across the state, particularly the 13th and 15th congressional districts and the gubernatorial race. Malkin studied Politics and Communications at Ithaca College, where he was a nightly newscaster and reporter for WICB. From 2020 to 2021, he was a reporting fellow at the Center on Media, Crime, and Justice at John Jay College. You can send a tip, recommendation, or note to hmalkin@illinois.edu.

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