Quinn tours drought-stricken Southern Illinois farm
With the warm spring, farmers were able to plant early and corn and soy seeds went in at a remarkable pace.
"We were set out to raise what we thought was probably the largest corn crop in the history of American agriculture," Said Illinois Farm Bureau President Phillip Nelson.
Instead, months of drought are killing those expectations ... and the corn. Nelson says some farmers will end up with no crop, or only half of one.
State water officials say the first half of 2012 is Illinois’ sixth driest on record.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn made a rare appearance Monday in Southern Illinois to outline the options. He toured the Laird family farm in Jefferson County before holding a news conference to announce his drought relief plan.
"We've never seen a drought like this,” he said, “and we've got to make sure we do things about it."
Quinn says farmers in the 26 counties that have been declared federal disaster areas because of the drought can apply for assistance from the U.S. government, and he's applying for seven more counties to get the designation. He also says farmers can try for loans through four state programs.
"He didn't tell the farmers anything that they didn't already know,” said Senator John O. Jones, R-Mt. Vernon, “I mean those programs have been in place for years.
"It accomplished nothing."
Many downstate legislators say the governor has abandoned southern Illinois. He rarely visits, and is closing a series of state facilities there.
And union members showed up at the farm to protest another economic hit for southern Illinois: Quinn's decision to close a state prison, juvenile detention camp and developmental center in the region.
Quinn told farmers to visit a new website, drought.illinois.gov, to find information about how to apply for an expedited loan.
"We've got to be on the front line with all of our farmers across Illinois,” Quinn said. “This is their hour of need and we will not forget them."