U.S. ag secretary, in Iowa, announces new derecho aid for 18 counties

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, at a tour in Radcliffe, signs a USDA disaster declaration for 18 Iowa counties. (Screenshot from Iowa Corn livestream)

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, on a tour of Iowa derecho damage and conservation practices Thursday, designated 18 Iowa counties as primary natural disaster areas.

That qualifies farmers in those counties to apply for emergency loans in the wake of the Aug. 10 derecho. Gov. Kim Reynolds had applied for the aid.

Perdue signed the documents at Stolee Farms near Radcliffe after a tour that included Reynolds, Sen. Joni Ernst and Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig. 

Iowa farmers also will be available for various U.S. Department of Agriculture disaster assistance programs, including “program flexibilities” and a special signup for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The program changes mean streamlined requirements for the Emergency Conservation Program, Emergency Forest Restoration Program, Emergency Loan Program, Farm Storage Facility Program, and Tree Assistance Program

Perdue said his tour of the crop damage, by air and four-wheeler, was “sobering.”

“It really was kind of sad,” Perdue said, recalling the impressive sight of normal Iowa corn standing “tall and proud” this time of year.

On the upside, the tour also included a look at conservation practices at a chestnut operation on the farm, including a wetland, Perdue said. “This is a great opportunity to see the innovation of American agriculture,” he said. “And feeding the world, but doing it in the right way.”

Perdue said President Trump understood the plight of Iowa farmers amid the storm damage and drought, and quickly acted to provide resources through FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Perdue said more Iowa counties may qualify for aid later. 

The counties declared disaster areas  by USDA, know as “primary designation,” are: Benton, Boone, Cedar, Clinton, Dallas, Guthrie, Hamilton, Hardin, Jasper, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Marshall, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Story, and Tama.

Farmers operating in contiguous counties may also apply for emergency loans. Those counties are: 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.

The program will be available through nearly half of next year. The deadline to apply is May 3, 2021. 

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is offering $4 million in recovery assistance through a special EQIP signup in parts of Iowa affected by the derecho. Applications will be accepted through Oct. 2, 2020. Eligible applicants will receive higher than normal EQIP practice payments rates. The fund maybe used for cover crops or replacing roofs and some other structures. 

More information on the various programs is available at farmers.gov/recover