Naig: Derecho a Devastating Blow to Iowa’s Agricultural Community

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LUTHER, IA – AUGUST 11: In this aerial image from a drone, damaged grain bins are shown at the Heartland Co-Op grain elevator on August 11, 2020 in Luther, Iowa. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said early estimates indicate 10 million acres, nearly a 1/3 of the states land used for crops, were damaged when a powerful storm battered the region a day earlier. (Photo by Daniel Acker/Getty Images)

DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig says about 14 million acres of crops were in the path of the derecho that slammed Iowa on Monday, with 3.57 million acres of corn and 2.5 million acres of soybeans getting hit the hardest.

The derecho battered Iowa with winds averaging more than 60 mph and reaching top speeds of over 100 mph. The storm flattened corn fields and destroyed agricultural infrastructure across the state.

The USDA Risk Management Agency reports 57 counties in Iowa were in the path of the derecho. Within those 57 counties, there are about 14 million acres of insured crops. That includes 8.2 million acres of corn and 5.6 million acres of soybeans potentially impacted by the storm.

Based on satellite imagery and storm reports, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship believes 36 counties in Iowa were impacted the greatest. Within these 36 counties, 3.57 million acres of corn and 2.5 million acres of soybeans were hit the hardest by the storm. Naig has been touring some of the areas hit the hardest and speaking with farmers and agribusinesses.

“These farmers put significant resources into this crop and were planning for strong yields. Now their crops have been damaged — some destroyed — and the state has lost tens of millions of bushels of grain storage just a few weeks before harvest begins. This is a devastating blow to the agricultural community that is still recovering from the pandemic,” Naig said.

Currently, corn crops are in the advanced stages of development and nearly a month away from the beginning of harvest. The Associated Press reported farmers in much of central and eastern Iowa were expecting near-record yields, per a USDA report from Aug. 1. How much can be saved will depend on whether the crops were snapped off or just bent over by the derecho’s fierce winds.

For reference, Iowa farmers harvested 13 million acres of corn and 9 million acres of soybeans in 2019. The combined production of corn and soybeans was valued at more than $14 billion last year. This year, Iowa had up to 24 million acres dedicated to corn and soybeans.

Gov. Kim Reynolds remarked on Tuesday that the damage caused by the storm is unprecedented in Iowa.  “This morning I had a farmer reach out to me to say this was the worst wind damage to crops and farm buildings that he has ever seen across the state in such a wide area,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said Friday that she spoke with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence about the damage to Iowa’s agriculture industry. Pence, who visited Iowa on Thursday, said he spoke with a group of farmers who suffered damage from the storm. Pence assured the farmers that the Trump administration would aid in the recovery effort.

“Let me say that on behalf of the president and our administration, I want Iowans to know that we are with you,” Pence said, “We are going to stay with you and we will work with your governor and your senator to make sure that we bring Iowa all the way back … bigger and stronger than ever before. I promise.”

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