derecho corn

Many Iowa cornfields have been disked under since the derecho hit the state in August.

It’s a call no producer wants to make, but many farmers have been forced to get in contact with crop insurance agents in 2020.

The Aug. 10 derecho flattened millions of acres of cropland across Iowa and Illinois, forcing farmers like Tim Bardole to have hard conversations with their insurance agencies and have adjusters out assessing their fields.

Bardole, who was president of the Iowa Soybean Association until early September, said getting the right assessment took a couple of tries.

“Originally, they said if you had 5% standing, you had to harvest it,” said Bardole, who farms near Rippey in central Iowa. “After everyone around us was zeroed out, I wasn’t overly happy about it — not because I wanted to be zeroed, but there’s a lot of expense in harvest. They came back and they said the rules had changed and now it was if you had a 20% stand you had to harvest. So half of our corn got zeroed, about 600 acres.”

The rule change may have come because some companies were more lenient than others in assessing the crop damage in these affected fields, Bardole said. He said as president of the ISA at the time, he was able to chat with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and talk to other organizations involved in the federal crop insurance program, which may have led to some of those changes.

“We were following the rule and had no problem with that,” Bardole said. “I signed up for it and agreed with it. There were a lot of companies that weren’t following the rules, so that’s why the rules changed to try and level the playing field. There was way too much difference in interpretation by different companies.”

Jim Fuhrman, an agent with Crop Insurance of Northeast Iowa, said the process for crop insurance claims typically involves percentages for how much damage is present. That could be from hail or wind, depending on what kind of policy is worked out between the provider and the insured client.

“You are never going to get rich with an insurance claim,” Fuhrman said. “But at least it can keep you moving forward to the next year to stay in business.”

Bardole said he is using a roller-crimper to destroy the corn that was zeroed out in an effort to cut down on volunteer corn next year and maintain his no-till operation. He also intends to plant soybeans in those flattened corn fields, so his spraying options can limit leftover kernels and seeds germinating in the field.

He said finding livestock to graze these fields didn’t end up being an option for him as there are limited numbers of cattle, and his fields aren’t fenced for livestock.

“There are places we have to destroy that are at 220 bushels of corn, so I’m not sure you could graze that without boundary-ing the cattle. That’s a lot of corn,” Bardole said. “The plan is hopefully this roller crimper will bust stalks up and bust the ears. Then it will open the husks up and we can try to get some of it to sprout this fall.”

Fuhrman said he hopes this kind of event shows the importance of crop insurance.

“It makes you think about what possibly could happen,” Fuhrman said. “That’s the biggest comment I’ve heard. There’s a wind insurance coverage that the insured can carry. There’s been a lot of questions about that because we don’t know what’s around the corner anymore. Nothing would surprise me moving forward.”