2020 Derecho Cost Iowa’s Farmers Hundreds of Millions

Graphic by Annabel Driussi for ODP

by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

According to a new report from the American Farm Bureau Federation, the derecho and drought that hit Iowa last year destroyed $802 million in corn, soybeans and pastures.

  • While crop insurance covered nearly $560 million of the losses, farmers had to pay another $243 million out of pocket.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the derecho’s damages totaled $11.5 billion, making the event the most costly thunderstorm in U.S. history.

Why This Matters: Natural disasters are incredibly costly, particularly for farmers. Last year, natural disasters caused $6.5 billion in damage to crops, pasture, and rangeland. In total, damage from natural disasters — from hurricanes and wildfires to drought and tornadoes— cost $99 billion, making 2020 the fourth-most expensive year of natural disasters since 1980, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported.

With this year’s drought pummeling the West, it could be another dismal and costly year for our nation’s farmers. And currently, the Midwest is bracing for another derecho.

And while farming lobby groups have historically been opposed to comprehensive climate action, it’s a sign of the times that the Farm Bureau joined a coalition of groups to address the contribution of our food systems to climate change.

Go Deeper: How should crop insurance rates reflect our drastically changing climate?

The Cost of Drying Out America’s Farmland: The damages to Iowa’s corn, soybeans, and other crops reached $490.8 million as a result of the derecho, and $308.2 million as a result of the drought. In addition to 6 million acres of farmland the storm destroyed, the derecho also battered farm equipment and livestock, damage that wasn’t accounted for in these latest estimates. 

Luckily, the federal government covered many of these losses through crop insurance, but farmers still had to pick up much of the slack. Federal crop insurance covered $2.9 billion in losses from last year’s growing season, leaving farmers to cover $3.6 billion of the damages — in Iowa, farmers had to cover $147.5 million in costs from the derecho and $93.7 million from the drought. 

That said, Iowa representatives Randy Feenstra and Cindy Axne, voted to provide additional coverage for the state’s disasters in an $8.5 billion disaster bill that the House agriculture committee approved Tuesday. The bill would provide financial assistance for farmers and ranchers struggling with extreme weather in 2020 and 2021.

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