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Derecho damages: Iowa cropland and communities in need


Last week, a damaging storm called a derecho reeked havoc for many rural Midwesteners, and now farmers are left to clean up the aftermath. In addition to cleanup, farmers and residents are seeking federal help to aid in recovery. For example, the governor of Iowa is requesting nearly $4 billion from federal partners. 

Gov. Kim Reynolds formally requested an expedited Presidential Major Disaster Declaration for Iowa communities and counties that have been severely impacted by the devastating derecho storm that occurred on Monday, August 10th, 2020. 

“From cities to farms, Iowans are hurting, many still have challenges with shelter, food, and power. Resilience is in our DNA, but we’re going to need a strong and timely federal response to support recovery efforts,” Reynolds said. “I have formally requested an expedited Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to secure this critical federal assistance as quickly as possible. This past week I had conversations with President Trump and Vice President Pence, both have pledged the full support of the federal government. I am very grateful for their continued partnership and commitment during this disaster.”

On Monday, President Donald Trump approved the emergency declaration.

In the request to the president, Reynolds indicated the State of Iowa will need an estimated $3,998,010,354 from federal partners to recover from this unprecedented event.

The video above perfectly describes the wind damage that tore through Iowa and surround states last week. For this reason, many local agencies are still responding to the impacts and have not been able to complete detailed damage estimates. The governor asked the department to leverage technology as well as historical data to create the damage estimates found within the request letter. This allowed the local agencies to continue to focus on immediate response needs while allowing the department to create the letter signed by the governor.

The damage estimates included in the governor’s request to the president were generated by using photographs, aerial photography, and GIS analysis. The current estimate is 8,273 homes being destroyed or suffering major damage. Additionally, it is estimated that $23.6 million of damage occurred to public infrastructure with an additional $21.6 million in cost associated with removal and disposal of debris from the storm.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig has also been collaborating with the United States Department of Agriculture, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, farmers and farm organizations, and agribusinesses to evaluate the agricultural damages caused by the derecho.

The USDA Risk Management Agency reports 57 counties in Iowa were in the path of the storm. Within those 57 counties, there are approximately 14 million acres of insured crops. This includes 8.2 million acres of corn and 5.6 million acres of soybeans that may have been impacted by the storm.

Based on MODIS satellite imagery and Storm Prediction Center preliminary storm reports, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship believes 36 counties in Iowa were hardest hit by the derecho. Within those 36 counties, the storm likely had the greatest impact on 3.57 million acres of corn and 2.5 million acres of soybeans.

“I’ve been touring some of the hardest-hit parts of the state this week to speak with farmers and agribusinesses that were impacted by the derecho,” Naig said. “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.”

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