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Rain Comes too Late to Help Some Midwestern Fields

August 7, 1991

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) _ Showers fell throughout the nation’s Corn Belt this week, but they barely settled the dust in some of the driest parts of Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, where farmers say drought has caused irreversible damage.

″They are just too mature to get much benefit from the moisture now,″ said J. Orin Taylor, who farms corn and soybeans in Illinois and has seen about half an inch of rain in June and July, well below the usual 8.5 inches.

Some farmers are predicting this year’s harvest will be as bad as after the 1988 drought.

Taylor said he harvested 17 bushels of corn and seven of beans per acre that year in a region that averages 130 bushels of corn and 40 of soybeans.

Richard Spafford, Taylor’s neighbor, had a similarly bleak outlook. He said his corn fields have ″a lot of barren stalks″ and his soybeans are shriveled.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture issues its latest estimates for the fall harvest on Monday. Dan Zwicker, a private crop consultant from Illinois, said traders expect USDA to reduce its earlier corn estimate of 8.2 billion bushels.

The rain fell Monday and Tuesday. Springfield, in the state’s center, got 1.53 inches.

In Indiana, the heaviest rain, 2.8 inches by 7 a.m. Tuesday, fell at Terre Haute, 70 miles southwest of Indianapolis.

Oakland Mills in Iowa received 2.0 inches in 24 hours ending at 7 a.m. Tuesday, and Burlington, about 20 miles away, got 1.24 inches.

Brian Kleiman, a northern Iowa farmer, said the rain was useless. But he still savored the sound.

″When I got up I thought, ’I’ll just lay here in bed and listen to it for a while,‴ Kleiman said. ″I just enjoyed it for a while.″

Gov. Jim Edgar toured some of Illinois’ hardest hit farms Tuesday and promised to push for a federal disaster declaration and other help for farmers.

″Even if they get some aid, it will fall far short of making up their losses,″ Edgar said while looking at the damage to Dan Hinkle’s sweet corn in Iroquois County.

In Indiana, U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar planned to visit drought-stricken areas and talk with farmers today and Thursday.