Extreme Weather in 2020 Cost Millions for Iowa Farmers

Iowa Farmers Pay for Extreme Weather derecho

According to a new report from the American Farm Bureau Federation, the derecho and drought that hit Iowa last year destroyed $802 million in corn, soybeans, and pastures. While crop insurance covered nearly $560 million of the losses, farmers had to pay another $243 million out of pocket. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the derecho's damages totaled $11.5 billion, making the event the most costly thunderstorm in US history.

Why This Matters

Natural disasters are incredibly costly, particularly for farmers. Last year, natural disasters caused $6.5 billion in damage to crops, pasture, and rangeland. In total, damage from natural disasters in 2020 -- from hurricanes and wildfires to drought and tornadoes -- cost $95 billion and made it the fourth-most expensive year of natural disasters since 1980 per the NOAA.

With this year's drought pummeling the West, it could be another dismal and costly year for US farmers.

And since farming lobby groups have historically been opposed to comprehensive climate action, the Farm Bureau joining a coalition of groups to address the contribution of our food systems to climate change is a real sign of the times.

NOAA: Billion-Dollar Disasters - By the Numbers (1980-2020).

NOAA: US 2021 Billion-Dollar Disaster Map.

Go Deeper

How should crop insurance rates reflect our drastically changing climate?

The Cost of Drying Out America's Farmland

The derecho accrued damages to Iowa's corn, soybeans, and other crops reached $490.8 million, while the drought damages cost $308.2 million. In addition to destroying six million acres of farmland, the derecho also battered farm equipment and livestock -- damage that wasn’t accounted for in these estimates.

Luckily, the federal government covered many losses through crop insurance, but farmers still had to pick up much of the slack. Federal crop insurance covered $2.9 billion in losses from last year’s growing season, leaving farmers to cover $3.6 billion of the damages. In Iowa, farmers still had to cover $147.5 million in costs from the derecho and $93.7 million from the drought.

That said, Iowa representatives Randy Feenstra and Cindy Axne, voted to provide additional coverage for the state's disasters in an $8.5 billion disaster bill that the House agriculture committee approved Tuesday. The bill would provide financial assistance for farmers and ranchers struggling with extreme weather in 2020 and 2021.