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Federal, state officials meet with farmers, food producers on derecho and COVID-19 impacts

Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 7:24 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig and Bill Northey, the former Iowa ag secretary now with the United States Department of Agriculture, met with eastern Iowa farmers and food producers Wednesday.

In a series of two meetings, they requested feedback to learn more about what Iowan’s are up against following crop damage in the August 10 derecho and due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The USDA now estimates Iowa lost more than 850,000 crop acres in the storm. At one roundtable with agricultural leaders, some farmers said harvesting is difficult this fall. They said they are unable to find rows in the fields, the process is taking longer and the down corn is causing possible damage to combines.

Farmers also noted concerns over inconsistent insurance adjusters. One farmer told the secretaries his fields were zeroed out in August by one adjuster, but later revaluated with the potential to produce a higher yield.

“This is new and this is harder and it does change from one side of the fence to the other or maybe in the field,” Northey said. “You look at one part of the field, part of it looks like it’s kind of standing and maybe that part of it is harvestable, but other parts aren’t at all. What do you do in all those circumstances, help us understand where we are getting multiple adjusters.”

Naig and Northey also hosted a roundtable in Central City to get feedback on the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture introduced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. In the first round of assistance, it supplied $1 billion dollars in assistance to Iowa farmers and others in the agriculture industry that helps keep the food supply chain open. Round two of the program is now open for applications and expected to supply another $400 million dollars in assistance to Iowa.

Producers and farmers told the secretaries Wednesday afternoon how crucial that funding was and continues to be. The program also allows the USDA to purchase and distribute foods and crops producers had built up and weren’t able to sell due to declines in demand and sales because of shutdowns in the restaurant and service industry.

“We had a little over 600,000 farmers that participated in CFAP 1. I think it will be bigger in CFAP 2, we made it a little broader in the losses that they can cover. Pretty much every specialty crop has the opportunity to be covered,” Northey said.

Northey said he doesn’t know if a third round of assistance is possible, but said Congress has talked about doing so and adding eligibility to groups like ethanol processors.

“To get a round three we would need more resources, we would need Congress to be able to pass that. I’m not sure what that likelihood is, it seems like there is still interest in it, its bipartisan support for ag, but so far other things have slowed that bill down,” Northey said.

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