Iowa Waits For Federal Help After Derecho Devastates Farmland - Modern Farmer

Iowa Waits For Federal Help After Derecho Devastates Farmland

Aid to the state is still under review.

An Iowa cornfield in pre-derecho times.
Photography by MP_P on Shutterstock

Last week, a weather phenomenon known as a derecho sprinted through Iowa, causing massive damage.

That storm affected millions of acres of farmland across the Midwest, with notable damage to grain storage silos. The state has requested federal aid, but it hasn’t quite arrived yet.

A derecho is a particular kind of windstorm, defined by its straight-line movement and high wind speeds. The one that smashed through Iowa on August 10th hit speeds of 110 miles per hour, more than enough to destroy homes, businesses, and other structures. The state’s agriculture department, according to Reuters, estimated about $300 million worth of damage just to those grain silos. 

It also flattened active crop fields, with an estimated third of Iowa’s corn crop—about 13 million acres—either destroyed or extensively damaged. That’s in addition to the non-agricultural damage, which includes thousands of damaged homes and tens of thousands left without power.

The governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds, immediately filed a request for $3.77 billion in federal aid specifically for agriculture, including removal of damaged equipment and structures, repair, and reimbursement, to help farmers survive the year and get up and running for the future. 

Donald Trump, despite his tweet stating he had approved “the FULL Emergency Declaration for the Great State of Iowa,” did not actually do this. Trump did, according to MarketWatch, approve one part of Governor Reynolds’s request, for repair and removal of debris for government buildings. The $3.77 billion for agriculture, as well as $82.7 million for private homes, is still under review, and has yet to be approved. 

The Washington Post reports that many, including representatives and epidemiologists, are unsatisfied with the speed of aid to address the crisis—which some have described as “Iowa’s Katrina,” referring to the wildly destructive hurricane that decimated New Orleans in 2005. Other reports from the scene paint a grim picture of urban blocks fully leveled, a lack of food, closed banks and gas stations, refrigerators rotting in restaurants due to power that remains down.

Iowa is the nation’s top producing state for corn, but due to decreased demand due to trade wars with China and a lessened demand for biofuel made from corn, a loss of even 100 million bushels may not dramatically affect corn prices, according to AgWeb. The bigger risk is for the corn that wasn’t damaged: corn silos, essential for storage, suffered mass destruction. Without significant and very swift aid, it’s unclear whether farmers will be able to store corn harvested this year.

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Michael Nordberg
2 months ago

Now it is being said winds were in areas 130-140 mph. At the nuclear power plant in Palo, IA wind speed of 134 mph was recorded before the instrument broke. A couple minutes later the cooling towers were destroyed knocking the plant offline. Almost two weeks on there are still people without power including my sister who lives in Cedar Rapids. At my farm the roof of my grain bin collapsed and a third of the big 200 year old cottonwoods that stood in my pasture were uprooted or snapped off at the trunk.

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