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Secretary Perdue designates 18 Iowa counties as primary disaster areas, offers USDA aid

Grace Connatser
Wisconsin State Farmer
Powerful winds from the Aug. 11 derecho flattens millions and millions of acres of farm fields across the Midwest.

US Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has designated 18 Iowa counties as disaster areas after the derecho in August.

The designation allows for farmers to apply for emergency loans and makes them eligible for other disaster response programs, like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which invests in natural resource conservation and gives financial assistance to farmers.

USDA is making $4 million available in EQIP funds for certain parts of Iowa to recover seeding for cover crops on impacted fields as well as damage to structures and tunnel systems that were funded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The primary disaster areas in Iowa are Benton, Boone, Cedar, Clinton, Dallas, Guthrie, Hamilton, Hardin, Jasper, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Marshall, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Story and Tama counties.

The emergency loans are disbursed through the USDA's Farm Service Agency and can cover equipment and livestock replacement, farm reorganization and debt refinancing. Producers in the eligible counties can apply for assistance until May 3, 2021. The review process will determine the loan amount based on direct losses, financial security and ability to repay.

Additionally, 24 Iowa counties and three Illinois counties were given contiguous disaster designation, which also creates eligibility for emergency funds: Adair, Audubon, Black Hawk, Buchanan, Butler, Carroll, Cass, Delaware, Dubuque, Franklin, Greene, Grundy, Iowa, Jackson, Keokuk, Louisa, Madison, Mahaska, Marion, Muscatine, Warren, Washington, Webster and Wright counties in Iowa, and Carroll, Rock Island and Whiteside counties in Illinois.

"The extent of damage to crops, equipment, facilities and the ag sector as a whole from this storm is devastating," said Secretary Perdue. "The recovery process is in full swing, and USDA is working diligently to expedite financial and technical support for Iowa farmers and livestock producers who have suffered unprecedented losses."

USDA also agreed to temporarily streamline environmental compliance processes for Midwestern farmers affected by the derecho. A press release said impact to natural resources will be low.

Other programs are available to producers outside of the designated emergency areas who were still affected by the derecho. The Emergency Conservation Program, Livestock Forage Disaster Program and Livestock Indemnity Program, among others, are available to producers without needing emergency designation.

The rare storm flattened corn fields across the Midwest Aug. 10 with recorded winds up to 140 miles per hour, a record according to the Des Moines Register. Farmers across the region reported massive damage to crops and farm structures, including busted grain bins, and a loss of electricity for days for tens of thousands of Iowans. Damages are estimated to have reached $4 billion.