Durbin visits farmers, as drought drags on

By Anna Yee

August 7, 2012 Updated Aug 7, 2012 at 5:23 PM CDT

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. -- Mother Nature's wrath isn't lightening up on Central Illinois' crops.

First it was corn damage.

Now it's soybeans, yielding only about half the number of pods than usual this time of year, according to area farmers.

Soy is a big part of Illinois' highest grossing industry.

On Monday, US Senator Dick Durbin got a firsthand look at Bloomington's agriculture.

"Every aspect of farming touches us in some way or another, every town and village," said Senator Durbin, (D) IL, "and this drought is going to have a heavy price on a lot of people who aren't farmers."

In June, the US House refused to vote on a farm bill that would revitalize expired disaster programs.

That won't be brought back to the table until early September.

In the meantime, Durbin is meeting with area farmers to discuss even more relief options.

Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture opened Conservation Reserve Program areas to livestock grazing.

Now, there's talk of using more protected land to help feed the animals, like filter strips along farm creeks.

Farmers could bail this grass for cattle, but they say only steady rainfall can stop the drought's trickle-down effects into other industries, like grain elevators.

"We typically will nearly double our workforce during a typical harvest season," said Kendall Miller, General Manager of Evergreen FS, Inc., which operates the Yuton Elevator in Bloomington.

"So, if we only have half the bushels to handle at this harvest," continued Miller, "it's a reasonable expectation that we'll probably only need about half the people."

Farmers are already starting to re-think planting for next year.

"We're definitely going to be feeling it next spring," said Bill Wykes, Chairman of the Illinois Soybean Association. "I mean, there's going to be a lot of different changes. We just hope we can get the seed to plant next year's crop."

With little rain and government assistance in sight, for now, all farmers can do is wait.

To submit a comment on this article, your email address is required. We respect your privacy and your email will not be visible to others nor will it be added to any email lists.