Farmers picking up the pieces in Iowa after millions of acres of crops destroyed

Published: Aug. 18, 2020 at 9:03 PM EDT
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CEDAR COUNTY, Iowa (KWQC) - Millions of Iowa crop acres were damaged in the Monday, Aug. 10 Derecho.

Early estimates from the state’s Secretary of Agriculture found roughly 14 million acres of insured crops were damaged, with the majority being corn fields.

Farmers still reeling with what happened, are also still picking up the damage to buildings.

Clean-up continued on Monday for farmers near Lowden and Clarence in Cedar County (between Cedar Rapids and Davenport), a week after the storm.

“The horizon kind of changed. All your trees were flat. Several of your buildings were flat. Grain bins ruined. Then you look down the road and your neighbors place was the same way,” Brad Dircks said as he reflected on walking outside for the first time after the storm.

Dircks and his family farm about 1,250 acres of corn and soybeans.

"We had a beautiful crop coming until the storm."

Now, much of their corn fields are destroyed and several buildings on their property are gone, including grain bins. Dircks said damage to buildings is in the hundreds of thousands.

With grain bins gone, and as harvest approaches, storage is a concern.

“So many of the grain bins in the area are ruined and unuseable. And there’s not time to fix them. To compound the problem, a lot of the local elevators have the same issues with damaged grain bins, so they can’t take it either,” Dircks said.

A few miles to the West, the sight of destruction and crop damage continues.

“It just hits you in your heart and your stomach. It’s just like a pit there that everything you’ve worked with is gone in just ten or 15 minutes,” Jim Lawson, who owns a 600 acre farm just northwest of Clarence, said.

Damage to the Lawson farm is extensive. Although their house was mostly untouched, besides some siding and shingle damage, their barn, grain bins, shed and corn fields were heavily damaged.

“It’s gonna be tough for a while,” Lawson said, “I’m not sure what exactly we’re going to do. I talked to my crop insurance adjuster. He may be going to let us till it under before too long. Some of it we’re going to have to try and get that’s still feasible to combine, but if it’s really flat, it’s not worth doing.”

The property has been in Jim Lawson’s family for nearly 150 years. His grandfather bought the land in the late 1870s. Not long after, a barn was built and stood on the property for almost as long.

“It was here from the beginning and something I played in as a kid,” Lawson said, “Just to see it gone, I wanted to try to keep it and keep it nice because so many farms don’t have barns anymore and that’s kind of the beginning of a farm you know.”

Although the destruction of the barn was one of the more difficult losses for Lawson, he said he and his wife will continue on.

“We’ll keep going. We’ll get things repaired. It’s just going to take some time and work,” Lawson said.

According to the Iowa Dept. of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, 36 counties were hit hardest with crop damage.

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