With Iowa agriculture suffering in 2020 from the pandemic, weather disasters and an enduring economic downturn, it’s essential that Farm Bureau members continue to support each other and their rural communities, Craig Hill, president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF), said last week. 

It’s just as important, Hill emphasized to voting delegates and others attending the 2020 IFBF Summer Policy Conference in Des Moines, that Farm Bureau members develop sound policies to back the organization’s key priorities, including supporting a robust renewable fuels industry, promoting free trade and developing a fairer and more equitable relationship with the nation’s meat processors. 

“Together, we have done many things to advance our mission, and there is much to be proud of, but there is more work to be done,” Hill told the delegates. “Make no mistake, these challenges outlined will persist, but I know together we can make it through, just as we have always done.”

Hill, a crop and livestock farmer from Warren County, acknowledged that 2020 has been a year of unprecedented challenges for Iowa agriculture. “As we know too well, adversity and farming often go hand-in-hand, but this year has been unlike any other. The issues and circumstances we face today would have seemed unfathomable a year ago,” he said.

Iowa farmers were already suffering through an eight-year economic downturn when the pandemic threw crop and livestock markets into turmoil, Hill noted. A severe drought cut into yields in a large portion of the state, and then Aug. 10, the derecho ripped through much of the state, flattening fields and destroying grain bins and other farm structures, he said.

Neighbors helping

As the pandemic gripped the economy, Farm Bureau members responded to needs in their communities by helping address a surge of demand at food banks across the state, Hill said. To help feed that need, 97 of the state’s 100 county Farm Bureaus, along with the IFBF, provided more than 1 million meals for Iowans during that time of need. Several individual members also stepped up to help those in their communities, especially those devastated by the derecho, Hill said. 

The rapid response to the pandemic and the derecho damage by the federal and state government has also been a silver lining for farmers, Hill said. 

The federal response quickly stabilized businesses and quickly brought needed dollars for agriculture through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Hill said. Iowa’s strong response, led by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, has also helped farmers through both the economic damage from the pandemic and the physical damage from the derecho, he said. 

She has led the state through crisis with prudence and balance, Hill added. “Our state’s swift response to the derecho disaster provided hope and sense of security knowing our leaders, all the way to the president, recognized the significant impact on our farms and communities.” 

Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company also responded to the derecho faster than any other insurer in the state, Hill said. The company was financially prepared to withstand such an unprecedented event, then went on to recruit from around the nation more than 300 adjusters to promptly assist farm families, he said.

While the challenges from the pandemic, drought and derecho will persist for Iowa farmers, Hill said he’s confident that, by working together, farmers can survive and prosper.