Farm aid may benefit some farmers

Gov. Pat Quinn announced that disaster relief would be provided to farmers in 58 counties that have suffered flooding or excessive rain damage to crops in September.

Champaign County was not one of them.

However, at least some of the 4,000 farms in the county will still seek monetary relief for crop loss.

Brad Uken, manager at the Champaign County Farm Bureau, said that because the county is next to Piatt County and Douglas County, which have both suffered damages due to heavy rain and flooding, it is eligible for relief.

But many farm owners in Champaign are likely unaware of the legislation that could help provide financial support, Uken said.

“A lot of them are going to be thinking about the harvest right now,” he added.

The federal legislation requires each farm to apply for the aid separately, Uken said. Applications are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Not everyone will be able to qualify for aid since farmers must show they have experienced crop loss between April 1 and July 31.

“If the farmers think they qualify, they should contact their county farm agency office and staff in that agency can verify whether producers have crop loss that is eligible for emergency funds,” said Kelly Kraft, spokeswoman for Gov. Quinn.

The aid will be provided to the farmers on the basis of loss as well as compliance with Farm Service Agency regulations, said Yvonne Odom, the county executive director for the Farm Service Agency.

The agency requires that farms report their acreage every year, have crop insurance and comply with other stipulations, Odum said.

The farmers must also provide delivery lists that show the year’s production for different crops.

Whether the amount of crop loss is large enough will be judged on the revenue of the farm this year in comparison to previous years.

A similar piece of legislation called the 2008 Farm Bill will also provide some monetary relief to farmers who have suffered crop loss.

The Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE) will offer disaster relief to Champaign farmers who apply for it and who comply with the Farm Service Agency requirements.

The SURE program has allots money for disaster relief until 2012.

If the money is used up before then, no provisions will be added unless Congress decides to allocate more funds, Odum said.

She said the excessive rain and flooding have not had a huge impact on Champaign County farms and many farmers may not seek aid.

“Overall the county hasn’t had a huge disaster,” she said.

There was some flooding early on in the year that delayed farmers from planting their crops, Odum said. Later that season, there was some flooding in the lower areas that damaged the crops that had already been planted.

Uken said the damage may concern some Champaign County farmers, but the process for acquiring aid might be beneficial.

“We think it’s a program that some individual farmers will want to look at,” he said.

Steve Ayers, a farm owner and educator for University of Illinois Extension in Champaign County, said he had a few grain quality issues, but the harvest is likely going to be successful.

“Ironically, we’re looking at an above-average crop,” he said.

Ayers said even while the prospects are good, this farming season will be expensive because of delayed planting.

“We finally got a crop in,” he added. “I don’t see the disaster declaration as much of a disaster.”

Despite all the rain and flooding, Ayers said he is glad to see the crops turning out well.

“For the season we had, it’s closer to a miracle,” he said.