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Iowa Assesses Derecho Damage to Ag
By Todd Neeley
Wednesday, August 12, 2020 3:25PM CDT

OMAHA (DTN) -- About one-third of Iowa's estimated 30 million acres of cropland was hit hard by the derecho storm on Monday, and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said on Tuesday extensive damage was inflicted to about 10 million acres in the central part of the state.

What was already a challenging year for Iowa farmers just became even more challenging, as an estimated tens of millions of bushels of commercial grain storage was damaged or destroyed along with millions of bushels of on-farm storage.

"We were already looking at a challenging year from a storage standpoint because of a large crop," Naig told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

"We already have producers dealing with supply disruptions, and the ethanol industry has dialed back. Then, to bring on a significant crop when there's already a challenge -- now to take significant storage out of these areas -- you'll have areas where there'll be both damaged on-farm storage and commercial storage. It may mean farmers will have to truck farther. They will try to repair some by fall, but it's not likely a significant amount of storage will be rebuilt."

At this point, Naig said, there are no reported livestock losses. There has, however, been damage to livestock buildings.

The hardest-hit area of the state includes a wide swath from central Iowa northwest of Des Moines, to east-central Iowa east of Des Moines to the Illinois border.

Naig said that, as the storm moved past Carroll, Iowa, it inflicted the heaviest damage.

State climatologist Justin Glisan said the storm was a rare occurrence.

"We see derechos in the state once every two years," he said.

The central part of the state was in a severe drought prior to the 1-inch to 1.25-inch rainfall from the derecho. Glisan said the beneficial moisture was nullified by the damaging winds.

The state recorded a high wind gust of 106 miles per hour near Legrand, followed by a 99-mph gust near Marshalltown. He said the storm lost strength when it crossed into Illinois and then to Indiana. The derecho held together for 14 hours and 770 miles.

Naig toured the heaviest-hit portion of the state, including Heartland Cooperative in Luther, Iowa.

"It is incredibly devastating to see what's happening," he said. "This next week will tell us about the fate of the crop. Some will still produce. Only time will tell, and the situation is different across the state. We're not that far from harvest in the next six weeks in terms of crop health and storage.

"It is a very emotional situation for a lot of Iowa farmers."

Heartland released a statement on its website on Monday.

"We have sustained serious damage at 21 of our serving locations," the company said. "Our team is focused on doing first-responder activity, shutting down power and gas to avoid any additional risks to the public and our employees. We are lining up labor and equipment for cleanup activity to commence immediately. Several locations are rendered inoperable and we are making contingency plans for managing the fall harvest."

Cargill reported it had lost power at its facilities in Cedar Rapids and sustained damage to a silo at its oilseed processing facility.

Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation on Tuesday.

Iowa counties covered in the proclamation include Benton, Boone, Cedar, Clarke, Clinton, Dallas, Greene, Hardin, Iowa, Jasper, Johnson, Linn, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Story, Tama and Washington. The proclamation allows state resources to be used to help in the recovery.

The proclamation also activates the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program for residents in Dallas, Johnson, Marshall and Story counties.

In addition, the proclamation temporarily suspends regulatory provisions on weight limits and hours of service for disaster repair crews and drivers delivering goods and services, as well as the movement of loads related to responding to the severe storm.

Naig said, while the main area of damage is significant, not all of it was corn.

"There is severe damage to the crop," he said. "It depends, as it is very localized."

As is the case in Iowa, officials in Illinois continue to assess the damage left by the storm.

"We've been tracking down numbers most of the day and are still early in the reporting," said DeAnne Bloomberg, director of issue management at the Illinois Farm Bureau.

"I live in Orion/Henry County, and actually we spared the field damage, but plenty of structures caught the wind damage as well as trees."

A spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Agriculture told DTN the state continues to assess damage and did not have information available at the time this article was posted.

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN


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