Drought closing in on Fox Valley; Kendall named contiguous disaster area
By jenette Sturges firstname.lastname@example.org August 1, 2012 5:00PM
Cracks in the soil display lack of moisture in a corn field along Plank Road in Burlington in western Kane County. The long term forecast indicates ongoing drought or near-drought conditions throughout the summer. | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 3, 2012 1:18PM
The drought which has left most of the mainland U.S. high and dry has officially struck the Fox Valley, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday that 218 counties in 12 states are being added to the growing list of primary natural disaster areas eligible for emergency funds. Kane, DuPage and Will counties are not on the list, however.
But LaSalle County and counties to the west like Lee and Whiteside are.
“As a result, benefits will also be available for the contiguous counties of Bureau, DeKalb, Henry and Kendall,” U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-14th District, said in a release. “Today’s announcement leaves Cook, DuPage, Kane and Will as the only Illinois counties not yet designated a primary or contiguous disaster area.”
McHenry and Lake counties to the north have also been designated contiguous disaster areas because of drought in Wisconsin.
Farmers in contiguous disaster areas — like Kendall and DeKalb counties — will be able to access emergency loans at a lower interest rate. Crop insurance companies have also agreed to give farmers an extra 30 days to pay up on insurance premiums at the end of the growing season, when farmers with poor crop yields may be stretching to make ends meet.
Wednesday’s announcement now means slightly more than half of all U.S. counties have been declared disaster areas because of drought this growing season.
Still, northern Illinois’ farmers have been spared the worst damage compared to western cattle grazers.
About 73 percent of the nation’s cattle acreage is in an area experiencing drought, while 37 percent of U.S. soybean crops and 48 percent of corn crops were labelled in either “poor” or “very poor” shape.
Though the drought seems to be closing in on Chicagoland, Ryan Klassy of the Kane County Farm Bureau said he’s “hesitant” to say whether Kane will be a disaster area by fall.
“There are definitely crops in our county affected by the lack of moisture. Just talking to farmers in the last week, there’s some that say they have corn fields not where they normally would be. They expect the yield to be reduced, but not lost,” Klassy said.
“But it’s hard to say. You don’t know the weather’s going to look like, so it’s hard to say.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, August is not likely to be too forgiving. The agency is predicting an August with above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation.
Kane, Kendall and DeKalb counties are between 4 and 6 inches below normal rainfall for the growing season. So far, 2012 ranks as the warmest and the third-driest year on record for Illinois, according to Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel.