Reports on state budget cuts continue to be a popular subject for nationwide media outlets as the economy continues to lag behind in recovery. A recently proposed budget cut in the state of Illinois would affect farmers.
Currently, Illinois has implemented a statewide program (called AgrAbility Unlimited coordinated through a partnership of the University of Illinois Extension, the Illinois Department of Agriculture, and Central Illinois Easter Seals) that assists farmers and agricultural workers who have suffered injuries or disabilities in farm accidents.
The program was originally formed in 1990 thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but later turned over to individual states to handle. The Illinois AgrAbility Unlimited is one of about 20 state programs in the country.
But in 2009, $100,000 in funding for farmers was eliminated, cutting the program budget in half. Since then, AgrAbility Unlimited has tried to cover the loss by seeking private and corporate donations. This year they are hoping for a federal grant of up to $175,000.
Don Skinner, chairman of the Illinois AgrAbility program and disabled farmer says that roughly $200,000 a year is needed to fund the program, and for three years in a row, funding has been cut.
AgrAbility estimates that over 500,000 workers in the state of Illinois are involved in agriculture productivity and every year over 200 of these workers suffer permanent disabilities in some type of farming accident. Types of farm injuries include amputation, arthritis, vision or hearing loss, and chemical exposure.
Skinner and other AgrAbility organizers are not losing hope and will continue to seek funds from private supporters.