Storm hits 37 million acres

Corn in central Iowa flattened by the derecho storm. |  USDA/Jeremy Davis photo

Of all things that could go wrong with farming, weather is still the most troubling. Likely this is due to the complete lack of control that farmers have over it.

Farmers can get insurance for it, but that never makes up for the losses if it is catastrophic. Once in a great, long while a crop might come back after a complete write off for hail — after the insurance company’s cheque has cleared.

Luckily, many hail storms come in the earlier part of the season. Like frost, there can be some options.

Last week a giant storm ripped through large parts of the American Midwest.

The damage was spread over 37 million acres and wasn’t limited to crops. Winds of more than 160 km-h 100 were recorded. Buildings toppled, grain bins and barns were crushed. Half a dozen people died. Large, steel bin grain terminals were squashed as though a giant stepped on tin cans (see the story here).

As well, livestock were killed, although the United States Department of Agriculture didn’t have any numbers at press time.

Bill Northey, USDA under secretary for Farm production and conservation summed up the American government’s response to the event.

“Our agricultural producers provide Americans and consumers around the world with such abundance, it’s critical that we stand with them when confronting disasters like the derecho that has devastated so many in America’s heartland,” he said.

The governor of Iowa has asked their federal government for more than $4 billion in emergency payments for the state. Much of that money request is for farmers.

Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois were also subject to the power of the storm and they too will seek support from their federal government.

In more than 30 years as a journalist, I can’t remember a derecho, that is what they call those sorts of storms, or any other wind-weather event hitting so many farms in a single pass.

A wind storm of that magnitude this late in the growing season has likely ended prospects of a grain harvest in corn country, because corn doesn’t respond well to being laid flat.

Our thoughts go out to American producers facing the loss of what was shaping up to be a good crop in that region.

A cheque to cover losses helps, but it’s more satisfying to fill the bins because this is why most of us are out here.

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