© 2021
In touch with the world ... at home on the High Plains
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Midwest Farmers Are Reeling After Wind Storm Rips Through Millions Of Acres

Aaron Lehman's entire farm in Polk County, Iowa, sustained damage in Monday's storm.
Courtesy of Aaron Lehman
Aaron Lehman's entire farm in Polk County, Iowa, sustained damage in Monday's storm.

Midwestern farmers are assessing crop and infrastructure damage after a high-wind storm, known as a derecho, ripped through the region Monday. 

Iowa and Illinois were two of the hardest hit states, with tens of millions of acres of crops in the path of the storm.

“It’s by far the most extensive and widespread damage that we’ve seen on this farm," says Aaron Lehman, who grows corn and soybeans in Polk County in central Iowa, and is thePresidentof the Iowa Farmers Union. His neighbors, who he says have been farming longer than he has, have never seen anything like it.

Iowa Gov, Kim Reynoldsannounceda state of emergency in 20 counties on Tuesday, and the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naigcalledthe damage "significant" and "severe."

According to Lehman, in some ways, the storm did more damage than a tornado.

“Unlike a tornado, which is a mile-wide, this stretched for a width - of really intense damage - of approximately 40 miles, probably closer to 60-70 miles wide," he says. "Just across the entire state and of course multiple states.” 

The storm comes mere weeks before harvest season begins, and Lehman says he's unsure how it will unfold.

“It’s a little too early to assess how bad the damage to the corn is, but we know it’s really bad. We just don’t know exactly how bad yet," he says.

Lehman says widespread infrastructure damage means farmers will have less room to store crops come harvest time.

Insurance company Country Financial said Friday that it had received more than 100 crop claims in Illinois alone as a result of Monday’s storm, most of which were reported in the northern part of the state.

“According to our field adjusters, damage is mostly light in nature with a few isolated areas with moderate damage.  Most of the claims were due to wind and green snap, followed by hail.  However, we will not know the full damage from the storm until harvest,” the company said in an email statement.

Follow Dana on Twitter: @DanaHCronin

Copyright 2020 Harvest Public Media

Dana Cronin is a reporter based in Urbana, Illinois. She covers food and agriculture issues in Illinois for Harvest. Dana started reporting in southern Colorado at member station 91.5 KRCC, where she spent three years writing about everything from agriculture to Colorado’s highest mountain peaks. From there she went to work at her hometown station, KQED, in San Francisco. While there she covered the 2017 North Bay Fires. She spent the last two years at NPR’s headquarters in Washington D.C., producing for shows including Weekend Edition and All Things Considered.