US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is visiting Iowa today and has taken official action to make emergency federal loans available to farms that have been significantly damaged by the derecho in the last month.
“I’m here to announce that Iowa has qualified for a secretarial disaster that will unlock USDA programs for Iowa farmers, so I’m going to sign it here now,” Perdue said during a rally at a farm near Radcliffe where wetland engineering have been installed.
Earlier today, Perdue took an aerial tour of damaged fields in Hardin County.
“As a farm boy myself, I remember coming to Iowa and seeing these cornfields so tall and proud, ready to be harvested,” Perdue said, “and frankly hovering over that and seeing the flattened corn, I was honestly a little sad. “
The secretary’s statement names 18 of the hardest-hit counties as major natural disaster areas. He told reporters that more counties may be eligible once the financial assessments are completed. Crop losses must reach a threshold of 30 percent. Most farmers already have crop insurance to cover losses.
“Although we don’t have regulatory authority over insurance companies,” Perdue told reporters. “I am troubled by some of the inconsistencies we see in crop insurance determinations. “
Perdue said he would contact leaders in the crop insurance industry to discuss the concerns.
Dennis Friest lives southeast of Radcliffe and estimates the derecho hit his farm with winds of 80 to 90 miles per hour.
“Just east of me, he destroyed two 80,000 bushel bins,” he told Radio Iowa. “Four miles east of me, three or four barns have been destroyed. “
He struggles with damaged fields and uncertainty about his crop insurance.
“There’s a funny smell over there. Some of the corn is brown and dying. Some of the varieties stay green, ”said Friest. “We are going to harvest it next week. We’ll find out what’s going on … If it’s too bad, we might just destroy it. We’ll have to see. Hope if I put the muzzles underneath I can run it through the combine and not get a lot of dirt in it. We’re willing to try… Even if we destroy one field, we might not be able to get insurance because the others are good enough, so there are a lot of decisions that we have to make as farmers. It’s an unusual year.
The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture’s primary disaster declaration covers 18 counties as well as the 24 counties adjacent to those 18 because storms do not follow county boundaries. Farmers in these 42 counties can apply for emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency. Loans can cover property losses or be used to refinance debt.