U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue designated 18 Iowa counties as primary natural disaster areas last week after seeing damage caused by the Aug. 10 derecho first-hand on a helicopter tour with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Sen. Joni Ernst and Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig.

“It was a little somber, a little sobering. Flying over that and seeing the flattened corn, I was honestly kind of sad,” said Perdue. “It’s heartbreaking for people who put their sweat, blood and tears into the crop … almost to the point of beginning the harvest, and then it’s just devastation.”

The USDA sec­­retarial dis­aster declaration will enable farmers in the 18 designated counties, plus 24 contiguous counties, who suffered losses because of the derecho to be eligible for emergency loans and other federal assistance. Perdue also reminded farmers about the suite of USDA disaster assistance programs, including program flexibilities and a special sign-up through the Environmental Quality Incentives Pro­­gram (EQIP). 

Additionally, Perdue said he plans to visit with crop insurance companies about being more consistent in evaluating losses. “I’m troubled by some of the inconsistencies that we see in crop insurance determinations,” he said. “One neighbor (insurance might) determine a total loss, and the other one has to go through the process of combining the crop and may not get anything.” 

Naig said state leaders will also pursue additional federal aid through the WHIP-Plus disaster program. 

Damage to storage

In addition to causing severe damage to an estimated 3.5 million acres of corn and 2.5 million of soybeans, the Iowa Department of Agriculture estimates the derecho damaged more than 57 million bushels of commercial grain storage and tens of millions of bushels of on-farm storage as well as livestock barns and other farm buildings.  

“Most Iowa farmers have multi-peril crop insurance coverage, which will help them recover a portion of the losses to crops,” Naig said. “It will be important for USDA and crop insurance providers to continue working with Iowa farmers as they assess the damage to their crops and potential harvest and grain quality implications.”

The secretarial disaster declaration lists Benton, Boone, Ced­­ar, Clinton, Dallas, Guthrie, Hamilton, Hardin, Jasper, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Marshall, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Story and Tama as primary disaster areas. Twenty-four contiguous counties are also eligible for disaster relief programs, including Adair, Audubon, Black Hawk, Buchanan, Butler, Carroll, Cass, Delaware, Dubuque, Franklin, Greene, Grundy, Iowa, Jackson, Keokuk, Louisa, Madison, Mahaska, Marion, Muscatine, Warren, Washington, Webster and Wright.

This derecho declaration is in addition to the secretarial drought disaster declaration that was announced in August. That declaration makes farm op­­erators in 31 primary and contiguous counties eligible for assistance programs provided by the Farm Service Agency.