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Officials assess damage from historic Iowa derecho

Officials from Iowa and from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are working to determine the extent of the damage from an Aug. 10 derecho storm that blew through the state.

Iowa Storm Damage Pix.jpg
An Aug. 10 storm caused catastrophic damage to crops across Iowa. (Michelle Rook / Agweek)

AMES, Iowa — Officials continue to assess agricultural losses from the historic derecho storm that hit the Corn Belt on Aug. 10, and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig says it could rank as one of the worst weather events in the state’s history.

“This thing blew from Sioux City to the Quad Cities. I keep saying I don’t have a specific dollar amount today, but its going to be a big number when you total up all the damage,” he says.

The storm path covered 770 miles over the course of 14 hours and was 40 miles wide packing sustained winds of over 100 miles per hour.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship initially estimated the impacted area as around 10 million acres. However, using satellite imagery and storm reports, Naig says they believe 36 counties in Iowa were hardest hit by the derecho accounting for 3.57 million acres of corn and 2.5 million acres of soybeans. Yet he says it’s too early to estimate the total crop loss in bushels or dollars.

“Some of these fields are a complete loss and they shouldn’t have to be harvested and then you’ve got fields that are going to be somewhere in between that will still make a crop.”

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Iowa is the top corn producing state in the U.S. and the No. 2 producer of soybeans. USDA Risk Management Agency Administrator Martin Barbre says they have liability or federal crop insurance coverage on 14 million acres of corn and soybeans in 57 counties in Iowa that were in the path of the storm. This includes 8.2 million acres of corn and 5.6 million acres of soybeans. He says most of those acres are covered by revenue insurance policies with the harvest price option.

“Well over 90% of the acres are covered and also most of those coverage levels average on corn almost 81% of coverage levels. So, producers really are insured fairly well,” he says.

Barbre says they have adjustors in the field but he anticipates it will be two to three weeks before a full damage total can be compiled or yield losses can be released. USDA Undersecretary Bill Northey says it may take until harvest before the total yield loss is fully known.

“We just don’t know the extent of the damage to know what the total lost production is," he says.

Mike Holden says the crop damage from the storm was substantial on his farm near Scranton.

“Probably a third of my corn is flat, another third is varying degrees of flat, and then another third of it has downed spots but actually doesn’t look terribly bad,” he says.

Hail accompanied the more than 80 mph winds, which added to the injury. Holden estimates yield loss in his corn at varying degrees.

“I would say on a third of it, boy, it wouldn’t shock me if it's 80% or better, on the middle third maybe half,” he says.

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He says the drought had already dropped yield potential by about 10%.

Estimates on yield loss for corn in the state of Iowa range from 50 million bushels to 400 million bushels. That is based on the fact that Iowa farmers planted 14 million acres of corn this year and a third of that crop has been compromised. Farmers in the state planted 9.4 million acres of beans but damage is much more minimal as that crop was better able to withstand the hurricane force winds.

Grain quality is another issue with the storm damaged crop. Holden says he’s concerned that the elevators won’t take his poor quality, light test weight corn and he won’t have anywhere to market the crop.

“My biggest fear is what is the condition of that corn going to be? There’s not enough feedlots in Iowa to feed damaged corn to, and even they’re going to have a problem,” he says.

The storm also impacted both commercial and on-farm storage. Iowa officials estimate more than 57 million bushels of commercial grain storage capacity was damaged or destroyed and it will cost more than $300 million to repair, replace or remove the bins. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship estimates tens of millions of bushels of on-farm grain storage was lost.

Naig says there isn’t enough time this fall to repair or replace that storage, and that could create problems at harvest. There are also millions of dollars of damage to farm structures.

Related Topics: AGRICULTUREWEATHERCROPS
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