Sonny Perdue spoke at a farm near Radcliffe

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue spoke at a farm near Radcliffe after observing damage from the Aug. 10 derecho.

RADCLIFFE, Iowa — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue flew over storm-damaged areas and signed a secretarial disaster proclamation during a Sept. 3 stop in Iowa.

Perdue designated 18 counties as disaster areas due to the Aug. 10 derecho. Another 24 contiguous counties will be eligible for disaster relief programs. Crop losses must reach a 30% threshold to trigger a secretarial designation.

“Flying over that and seeing the flattened corn, I was honestly kind of sad,” Perdue said. He called the tour “very, very sobering.”

While most farmers have crop insurance, Perdue said he had some concerns with inconsistency in determinations. He said he intends to talk to insurance executives about that issue.

“We’re going to work on that,” he said.

After his tour, Perdue met with farmers at a conservation open house at Stolee Farms near Radcliffe. The Stolee family had built a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) wetland.

Farmers gathered at the event said they hoped the visit would help the secretary get a better idea both of the extent of the storm damage but also of the things being done environmentally on farms.

“We just want to highlight what’s going on in Iowa,” said Kevin Ross, a farmer from Minden who serves as president of the corn board for the National Corn Growers Association. “We want to talk about ways the government can help (with storm recovery).”

Dennis Friest, who farms near Radcliffe, said he hoped the visit would allow Perdue to help farmers deal with the storm and the economic factors related to the coronavirus.

“I hope he can help us get through this pandemic we’re in,” Friest said.

He said Radcliffe was at the edge of the storm path. While he suffered crop losses and other damage, he said other farmers were hit harder.

Tom Stolee said he also avoided the worst the storm had to offer, but he said there were crops and buildings destroyed in the area.

“Some of the crops literally look like you took a roller out and rolled them down,” he said.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said she was glad the secretary got the chance to see the storm damage. She also lauded the local conservation efforts being highlighted and said she continues to support IWILL (the Iowa Water and Land Legacy). The tax change would put state sales tax revenue toward conservation and water quality efforts. Democrats had supported the idea for several years and Reynolds proposed making it happen at the start of the legislative session in January, but the idea lost momentum when the pandemic hit.

“We’re going to dust it off … and come at it again next year,” she said.

Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.