Iowa farmers assess losses after storm flattened cornfields

As wildfires burn throughout the Western Slope, the sun sets a bright orange behind the Rocky Mountains for residents of the eastern plains Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, in Denver. Forecasters predict the warm weather will persist, vexing firefighters as they deal with the wildland blazes. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
As wildfires burn throughout the Western Slope, the sun sets a bright orange behind the Rocky Mountains for residents of the eastern plains Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, in Denver. Forecasters predict the warm weather will persist, vexing firefighters as they deal with the wildland blazes. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

DES MOINES, Iowa – Farmers across a wide swath of Iowa are dealing with the heartbreaking aftermath of a rare wind storm that turned what was looking like a record corn crop into deep losses for many.

The storm, known as a derecho, slammed the Midwest with straight line winds of up to 100 miles per hour on Monday, gaining strength as it plowed through Iowa farm fields, flattening corn and bursting grain bins still filled with tens of millions of bushels of last year’s harvest.

“It’s a problem of two years of crops here. You’re still dealing with what you grew last fall and you’re trying to figure out how to prepare for what you’re growing this fall,” said Iowa State University agriculture economist Chad Hart.

Farms in Illinois and Indiana also reported crop and property damage, but not to the extent seen in Iowa.

Before the storm hit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had been expecting a record national corn crop this year of 15.3 billion bushels harvested from about 84 million acres. Iowa was to provide about 18% of that production. Iowa’s crop was valued at about $9.81 billion in 2019.

The Iowa Corn Growers Association said it is too soon to accurately describe how much of this year's crop was lost. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said Tuesday that tens of millions of bushels of grain stored at farm cooperatives and privately on farms were damaged or destroyed.

Western Iowa has been declared an extreme drought zone and corn plants there were already weakened due to a lack of moisture. Those fields are likely a loss, Hart said.

According to a USDA report dated Aug. 1, farmers in much of central and eastern Iowa had been expecting near-record yields with healthy plants that could bounce back. For now, much depends on whether the plants snapped off or were just bent over by wind.