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Farmers Reeling After Storm Rips Through Millions Of Acres Of Crops

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

Midwestern farmers are beginning to assess crop 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 impacted and reports of widespread infrastructure damage.

“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 the President of the Iowa Farmers Union. His neighbors, who he says have been farming longer than he has, have never seen anything like it.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced a state of emergency in 20 counties on Tuesday, and the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig called the 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 in addition to crops, widespread infrastructure damage means farmers will have less room to store crops come harvest time.

The Illinois Farm Bureau says it’s too early to estimate exact crop losses. However, they’ve received many reports from farmers of completely flattened fields and damage to structures like grain bins and hog buildings.

Follow Dana on Twitter: @DanaHCronin

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Dana Cronin

Dana Cronin

Dana Cronin covers food and agriculture for Illinois Newsroom. Her work has reached both national and regional audiences through WILL's partnership with Harvest Public Media, an ag-focused Midwest reporting collaborative. Prior to Illinois Newsroom, she worked at NPR headquarters in Washington D.C. and for other member stations including KQED in San Francisco and 91.5 KRCC in Colorado Springs, CO. ➤ DCronin@illinois.edu@DanaHCronin

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