Derecho storm causes widespread, significant damage

Approximately 10 million acres, roughly a third of Iowa's total cropland, damaged by rain, hail and wind.

Krissa Welshans, Livestock Editor

August 11, 2020

5 Min Read
iowa corn damage 2020.jpg
Iowa Corn

Early estimates suggest that 10 million acres of crops were affected in Iowa Monday when a derecho storm system plowed through the Midwest, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds reported Tuesday when she announced disaster declarations for 13 counties. The derecho, which is a widespread event caused by severe thunderstorms and often characterized by 70-100 mph straight-line winds, started in southeast South Dakota and eastern Nebraska during the morning but spread through Iowa, Illinois, southern Wisconsin, southwestern Michigan, Indiana and northwestern Ohio.

The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center said the derecho tracked about 770 miles in 14 hours and included numerous wind gusts of over 74 mph, with gusts of more than 90 mph reported in central Iowa.

“Rain, hail and high winds caused significant damage to trees [and] crops, downed power lines and caused structural damage to homes, farm buildings and health care facilities,” the center said.

Reynolds said a farmer reached out to her and reported that it was “the worst wind damage to crops and farm buildings that he had ever seen across the state and such a wide area.”

Multiple bins, hoop buildings and sheds are gone, she added.

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Although it will take weeks before the full scope of damage is known, she said “initial reports are significant.”

Dal Grooms, communication director of Iowa Pork Producers Assn., told Feedstuffs that some hog operations had sustained damage, and many farmers were without the power or internet services needed to manage operations.

Grooms also relayed that one person experienced extensive damage to hoop barns, while others had roof issues and grain bin damage.

“We’re still reaching out to see what situations people find themselves in so certainly don’t have a complete picture. People are focused now on repairs or helping neighbors with repairs,” she said.

Iowa secretary of agriculture Mike Naig toured the state to view the damage and provided an update Tuesday afternoon.

“Yesterday was something that occurred on top of 2020 already being a very challenging year, but we’ve just added another new dynamic to that situation -- something that nobody wants to be dealing with,” he said.

While estimates suggest that roughly a third of the state’s crops have been affected, Naig said tens of millions of bushels of commercial grain storage and millions of on-farm grain storage were affected, destroyed or severely damaged.

Naig said two of the most important conversations farmers will have over the next couple of days will be: (1) with their insurance agent and (2) with their agronomist to determine what is happening with the crop in the field.

What was unique about this particular event, he said, was how widespread it was.

“This next week will tell us a lot about the fate of the crop. There is a lot of corn that is lying down. Some of that corn will still make a crop. It will be able to stand up and still produce. Other corn crop will, in fact, be damaged and not be able to be harvested. Really, only time will tell, and the situation is different all across the state,” Naig said.

Since farmers are not very far from harvest, there are a lot of things to think about, he added.

Naig further touched on the fact that the latest disaster is a very emotional situation for many farmers, especially given the already challenging year.

“That stress is real. I would encourage folks to make use of all the resources that are out there,” he said.

As for the economic impact of the storm, Naig said it is too early to tell, but “it ultimately comes down to, ‘Is there a yield impact?’”

According to Naig, the state was already looking at a challenging year from a grain storage standpoint due to expectations for a large crop and the market disruptions due to COVID-19.

“You’ve got a significant supply of corn right now in the country from the old crop because of export disruptions. We’ve got ethanol industries that have dialed back production. That all adds up, and we end up with more bushels available, and then to bring on a significant crop as well, we were already [facing] an issue," he said.

Now, storage has been affected.

There will be a lot of effort to repair damaged facilities, but this may be difficult to do before harvest this fall, Naig said, adding, “You have everything from sites that are completely destroyed -- they will not be able to operate this fall — and you’ve got other situations that might have a bin or partial damage but that, with some significant effort here in the next two months or so, they may be able to bring the facility partially back on line.”

Naig relayed that he is not aware of any livestock losses at this time but noted, “We are definitely aware of livestock barns that were damaged, really affecting all species.”

The natural disaster “absolutely can and will impact” the state’s economy, he said, and this will be on top of a year that already has seen unprecedented marketplace disruptions in food and agriculture.

Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist for StoneX, looked at counties that filed high wind reports with the National Weather Service across the Midwest and found that those counties included 17.5 million corn acres and 14.7 million soybean acres.

“I estimate that roughly 6.5 million acres were in the hardest-hit areas of Iowa and Illinois, including a bit of eastern Nebraska, southern Wisconsin and northwestern Indiana,” he told Feedstuffs. “I’m currently estimating lost corn production at between 200 million and 400 million bu., although we’re still trying to get a handle on how much corn broke over versus how much simply laid over and can still fill grain, albeit at a lower yield. As such, these numbers are subject to change.”

An Illinois Farm Bureau spokesperson told Feedstuffs that the impact on the state's agriculture industry is still unknown at this point but said most of the damage was to infrastructure and grain storage structures. One or two hog buildings were reported as damaged as well, she said.

About the Author(s)

Krissa Welshans

Livestock Editor

Krissa Welshans grew up on a crop farm and cow-calf operation in Marlette, Michigan. Welshans earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Michigan State University and master’s degree in public policy from New England College. She and her husband Brock run a show cattle operation in Henrietta, Texas, where they reside with their son, Wynn.

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