Disaster declaration sought to help flooded Illinois farmers

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (KFVS/AP) - Officials with the USDA in Illinois say they'll seek a federal disaster declaration to make farmers eligible for assistance with flood-damaged crops.

It's something one farmer is currently dealing with.

"We got a lot of bad crops down here and a lot of water down here," southern Illinois farmer, Bill Kuhnert said.

Kuhnert tells me he's been farming his whole life and while there are good years for crops…so far, this year hasn't been the best.

"We're going to lose about 1,000 acres, about half of it," he said.

Scherrie Giamanco is state executive director for the Farm Service Agency under the USDA. She tells The (Springfield) State Journal-Register (http://bit.ly/1RPULAn ) that the declaration would make farmers eligible for loans and possibly emergency funding. Giamanco says county FSA offices across Illinois have collected damage reports.

Illinois saw its wettest June on record this year and flood warnings have persisted on waterways including along the Illinois River.

Kuhnert has seen high waters impacting his crops in the past, but doesn't believe it will impact food prices.

""It may hold steady," he said. "But as far as food prices skyrocketing? No. I don't see anything like that happening."

Illinois USDA officials are seeking a federal disaster declaration that would make farmers eligible to take out loans and possibly emergency funding.

Farm agencies across the state are in the beginning stages of submitting damage reports.

"We're really just trying to figure out how much damage has been done and then those reports will be sent to the state office," executive director for the Jackson County farm agency, Dustin DeLuca said.  "And the state emergency board will look at those and determine if they can recommend a disaster declaration."

Kuhnert says while help is always welcome, borrowing money from the government could take some time to pay back.

"When you get to the use of handling money, they want their money back." Kuhnert said. "You don't make up a loss in one year. And you don't make it back in two years. It takes time. You make it back over a period of years."

Jackson county has not been declared a disaster county yet. Farm agency officials say it's still very early in the process.

The USDA's field report for this week found that more than half of Illinois' soybean crop and 44 percent of the corn crop were in poor to fair condition.

Last year the state saw record production for corn and soybeans.

Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com

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Copyright 2015 KFVS. All rights reserved. The Associated Press also contributed to this story.