Q: What resources will the President’s Major Disaster Declaration open up for Iowans?
A: On August 10, 2020, an unprecedented derecho ravaged communities in more than one-third of Iowa counties from the Missouri to Mississippi Rivers. Hurricane-force winds roared through Iowa’s entire mid-section in less than an hour, flattening corn fields, ripping apart grain bins, damaging thousands of homes and splintering countless trees within a 40 to 60-mile wing span. Power outages impacted hundreds of thousands of Iowans in what one Iowa utility called its worst damage ever to transmission lines. I saw the destruction first hand and Iowans are hurting. Governor Kim Reynolds’ administration took immediate action to assess the historic storm damage and requested nearly $4 billion in federal disaster assistance. Within 24 hours, the Trump administration approved Gov. Reynolds’ request for public assistance with the full support of the Iowa congressional delegation. By expediting approval for a major disaster declaration, President Trump’s green light triggered much-needed federal resources to help storm-ravaged communities with public safety and recovery efforts. The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) will administer Public Assistance funding for eligible governments and nonprofits in Benton, Boone, Cedar, Clinton, Dallas, Jasper, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Story and Tama counties and Hazard Mitigation assistance statewide. Governor Reynolds also requested federal individual assistance for Iowans in the following 27 counties: Audubon, Benton, Boone, Cass, Cedar, Clarke, Clinton, Dallas, Greene, Grundy, Guthrie, Hardin, Iowa, Jackson, Jasper, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Madison, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Story, Tama and Washington. FEMA’s Individual and Households Program would provide financial assistance for homeowners and individuals to help with disaster-related recovery needs, such as grants to help pay for temporary housing, emergency home repairs, uninsured personal property losses and medical expenses caused by the disaster. This requires a review of damage assessments for each county. President Trump so far has approved individual assistance for Linn County. Residents in Linn County may register with FEMA by calling (800) 621-3362 or (800) 462-7585 for TTY users. Or, register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
President Trump visited Cedar Rapids, the hardest-hit city in the eye of the storm, to hear directly from Iowans and learn more about the damage to property and critical infrastructure in the community. I joined Gov. Reynolds, Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig and local civic leaders to discuss the catastrophic damage to homes, businesses and farms. The pandemic and power outages compounded the tremendous hardship to manage massive debris clean-up and repairs for personal and public property and provide humanitarian assistance for displaced residents requiring shelter and food services. Despite around-the-clock heroism of line crews, first responders and volunteers, the president learned first-hand how the derecho overwhelmed state and local resources.
Q: How has this natural disaster impacted the fall harvest?
A: For generations, Iowa farmers have weathered the harshest conditions Mother Nature throws our way. From deadly blizzards to drought, floods and tornados, closely-knit farm communities do what it takes to protect their livelihoods. Managing risks with crop insurance help cushion fall-out from natural disasters and just pulling together — neighbor helping neighbor — is part of the social fabric of rural America. As a lifelong family farmer, I’ve seen plenty of damaged crops and livestock lost to disease and natural disaster. However, the historic derecho delivered an unfathomable path of destruction the likes of which I’ve never seen in my decades of farming and public service. In the days after the storm, I met with Iowans and surveyed field and property damage across the state. Despite dry conditions and drought, the USDA estimated corn yields in Iowa would average 202 bushels per acre prior to Aug. 1. Ten days later, the derecho flattened corn stalks in more than half of the state’s counties, impacting about one-third of the state’s crop acres. According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, more than 57 million bushels of commercial grain storage were damaged or destroyed. We also know a comparable number of bushels were lost with on-farm storage. Thankfully, USDA has an emergency farm loan program that assists farmers to recover from destroyed grain bins. Removing, replacing and repairing grain bins will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Marketing decisions for farmers may be impacted if grain storage is scarce at harvest time.
The USDA administers the federal programs that are on the books to help America’s food producers recover from natural disasters. Farmers should work closely with their local Farm Service Agencies and crop insurance providers for disaster-related assistance. The Livestock Indemnity Program provides assistance for livestock deaths from adverse weather events. Check here for more information about non-insurable crop coverage. Nursery tree operators and orchard growers may qualify for help through the Tree Assistance Program. The EQIP and Emergency Watershed Protection Program provides disaster-related recovery and conservation assistance. The Risk Management Agency administers the federal crop insurance program. More than 90 percent of Iowa farmers are covered by federal crop insurance. Producers are advised to follow up in writing within 15 days of reporting losses and crop damage to their insurance service provider. The clean-up and recovery efforts won’t happen overnight. As Iowa’s senior U.S. Senator, I’ll be there every step of the way, working to ensure Iowa receives the federal assistance provided by law.