Skip to Content

The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

Derecho flattens millions of Midwest acres, critical to ag

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

On the evening of Aug. 10, a derecho tore through the Midwest, leaving a 700-mile path of destruction from Nebraska to Indiana.  Wind gusts up to 100 miles per hour downed trees, caused significant structural damage and left more than 300,000 people without power. 

In addition, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA), the storms destroyed more than 14 million acres of crops including 8.2 million acres of corn and 5.6 million acres of soybeans in the state of Iowa alone, devastating Midwestern farmers and adding another heartache to what has already been a hard year for the agriculture industry. 

The disaster comes just after the USDA estimated corn production to rise to a record 15.2 billion bushels, 12 percent higher than 2019. Darren Frye, president and CEO of Water Street Solutions, believes the corn lost to the storm will bring the total U.S. yield average down four bushels per acre nationally for the 2020 crop.

Crop devastation

According to the USDA, 23.4 million acres of corn and soybeans were planted in Iowa this spring. 

Jan Dutton, chief executive of Prescient Weather, a private forecasting group that specializes in predictions for agricultural interests, estimated between 180 and 270 million bushels of corn were affected by the severe weather event. 

This estimate indicates over 43 percent of the crops were damaged or destroyed, a huge blow to the $10 billion industry in the Hawkeye State. 

“Total corn production for the U.S. is expected to be 15.2 to 15.6 billion bushels,” Dutton told the Washington Post. “The amount impacted is equal to one purchase from China.” 

Keely Coppess, communications director for the Iowa Agriculture Department, noted not all corn affected by the derecho was destroyed. 

“A lot of the corn is in the later development stages,” Coppess said. “Some is laying down at a 45-degree angle, but it may attempt to stand back up. It’s really too soon to tell.” 

Coppess explained if the corn is simply lying down and hasn’t succumbed to green snap, there is still a chance producers can harvest it, although harvest will be particularly difficult. 

Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA) Vice President Carl Jardon commented, “Harvest will begin shortly and over one-third of Iowa’s crop is flattened. It’s hard to tell at this point whether all the corn will recover and impact yield. 2020 has been a year of downfalls for the farmer. It has been one hit after another with trade disputes, low demand and attacks on the ethanol industry and the Renewable Fuel Standard, all on top of a global pandemic and the lowest corn prices in over a decade.” 

Meteorologist Steve Bowen also noted, “This has all the makings of a billion dollar agricultural impact. With this said, it will take some time for farmers to determine how much of the downed crop is salvageable for harvest. When combined with the rest of the physical property damage, it is entirely plausible the derecho was responsible for a multi-billion-dollar economic cost on its own.” 

Iowa corn and soybeans

According to ICGA, Iowa is the number one producer of corn in the U.S. with 2.58 billion bushels harvested in 2019. This number accounts for nearly one-sixth of nationwide yields. The state has been the nation’s top corn producer every year for the past 26 years.

ICGA also notes the state leads the nation in ethanol production, with 39 percent or 953 million bushels of corn grown in Iowa going into nearly 30 percent of all American ethanol. 

Twenty-one percent, or 461 million bushels, of Iowa corn went directly into making livestock feed in the 2014-2015 marketing year. 

During this same period of time, 12 percent, or 264 million bushels, of Iowa corn went into corn processing and was used in the wet mill industry for food and industrials usage, according to ICGA.  

According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), Iowa also ranks number two in soybean production, with 9.12 million acres or 501.6 million bushels harvested in 2019. 

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

Back to top