Due to the relentless rain experienced by the area during the month of May, Kankakee County Board Chairman Andy Wheeler, R-Kankakee, said Friday he has signed an emergency disaster declaration. The reasons for the declaration are the inability for farmers to get their crops planted and the substantial impact to farm families, associated industries,and overall county economy.

Wheeler stated, “We are in a crisis, and this is something bigger than our local county can address: We are on the verge of losing a substantial part of agribusiness’ contribution to the 2019 Kankakee County GDP (Gross Domestic Product) due to this prolonged weather pattern that has all but shut down the planting process”.

A majority of area farmers will miss the June 5 crop insurance planting deadline, according to a county news release.

At the Friday morning news conference in the Kankakee County Board room, Kankakee County Farm Bureau President Keith Mussman, who farms 1,800 acres of corn and soybeans, has 65 acres of soybeans planted and no corn at all. 

He shared, “It sucks to be a farmer right now. Any financial help we can get would be greatly appreciated. You can’t comprehend the emotional stress on farmers right now. We like to plant. We like to produce food, and we can’t right now.”

Wheeler continued, “It is important that our farmers know we are there for them and understand what they are facing and to try and access any resource that may be available. Something like this has never been done to our knowledge, so we are looking at how this declaration can be used to access resources outside of Kankakee County with the state of Illinois and federal government.”

He said the first step was to make the declaration while the county starts that process with the Farm Bureau, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and other state agencies.

“Kankakee County does not have the resources or capabilities to help our farming community, so we must ask our state and federal government for their help in helping our farmers,” Wheeler said.

State Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst, R-Kankakee, supports the effort. She states, “Our farmers need our help. Unprecedented rainfall is interfering with their ability to plant crops and jeopardizing crucial federal funding. I applaud Chairman Wheeler for his creative and proactive approach. My office is here to assist the county and farmers in any way I can.”

The disaster declaration will take effect on June 1 and is renewable every seven days.