CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker is seeking a federal agriculture disaster declaration for all of Illinois following the state's soggy planting season.
Pritzker says in his request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that winter snow melt and record rain caused rivers to swell to historic levels and soils to become saturated statewide this spring, forcing farmers to delay or scale back their planting, or not plant at all.
Illinois has experienced seven straight months of above-average precipitation, and an especially wet May — the third-wettest in state history — led to "significant planting delays," according to the state climatologist. At the end of June, only 87 percent of the state's soybean crop was planted, compared with a four-year average of 98 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"For months, our state has been battling historic flooding, causing untold damage to homes, businesses and farms across Illinois," Pritzker said in a statement. "For our farmers, this has meant delaying, reducing, or even eliminating planting, hurting a core state industry and impacting working families across Illinois."
Pritzker has issued several state disaster declarations this spring, including one covering 36 counties from the northwest corner to the southern tip of the state, and has deployed the Illinois National Guard.
If U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue grants the disaster designation, it would make federal assistance, such as low-interest loans, available to farmers and agricultural businesses affected by the wet spring. The Illinois office of the USDA Farm Service Agency has recommended that all 102 counties receive the designation.
The USDA did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.