Grassley hears concerns from area farmers on impact of derecho

By Jim Magdefrau

VAN HORNE – There is still uncertainty on how to proceed with this fall’s harvest after derecho winds flattened and damaged most of the corn in east central Iowa.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, heard of those concerns at an agricultural meeting Tuesday, Sept. 2, at the Van Horne Community Center.

Area farmers and insurance officials were at the meeting.

Grassley said he was taking the concerns to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue later that day.

Insurance

Mayor Marty Junge, who also owns an agricultural business in Van Horne, said most farmers are concerned with crop insurance. They are getting different things from different companies, with some telling farmers their corn is not harvestable, while others are saying farmers have to attempt to combine the crop.

“As you saw coming in here today, that crop is impossible to harvest … most of it,” Junge told Grassley

Junge questioned why farmers are getting two different segments from insurance officials. He’s also concerned about people getting hurt when they try to harvest the crop. “This is not going to be an easy thing,” Junge concluded.

Carlene Silhanek, Van Horne Insurance, related harvest concerns she’s heard, and that adjustors are going by a “strict” book from the Risk Management Agency (RMA). Farmers might be told they have to harvest, even when they have no combine.

Grassley saw this as a private/public relationship, as farmers deal with the insurance companies and not the government.

Scott Arnold, president of Rain and Hail Insurance, said his company is standing with farmers. His company signs a standard reinsurance agreement with the federal government to operate their program. They set the rules and policy provisions. RMA sets the loss adjustment procedures they follow. There is also a compliance division to make sure they are doing it appropriately.

Arnold has encouraged his people to go out with wide eyes and look at the damage that has occurred. They have to work with debris and quality issues. They want to bring “real life” thought to the damage.

If a field is zeroed out or not is subject to the adjustor that is in the field at that time. They want to listen to the farmers and they care for folks through the process.

He stressed it is driven by federal guidelines. He added there are other disasters occurring now throughout the country, but he’s never seen anything like what has occurred in the area.

Other concerns

One farmer was concerned how a low yield of 40 to 50 bushels per acre could affect the Actual Production History (APH). APH is used to set the insurable value of a crop. An official said there is an opportunity to use yield exclusion.

The loss of bins from the windstorm was another concern. It might cost twice as much to replace a bin than when it was originally built. Farmers also related possible examples of price gouging on the cost of shingles and wood.

Emergency management

Scott Hansen explained the role that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has in helping in the disaster. He encouraged all to call the FEMA number and register. Individual assistance can help with damage to the home and personal belongings. When it comes to farm buildings, that generally falls to the Small Business Administration with low-interest loans.

There is also the Benton County Disaster Recovery Coalition. Through donations, they help area families in need and find other areas of assistance, from the Red Cross and Salvation Army.

The key, Hansen stressed, is calling the FEMA number and register.

Residents approved for the Individual Assistance Program may apply online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362. TTY users can call 800-462-7585.

Hansen stressed, “I’ve seen a lot of hurt in this county. Mental health is just as important as anything else. Don’t be embarrassed by that. There are help lines out there for that. I strongly encourage you to use it.”

Hansen pointed out, “We’ve lost some people in this county due to events like this. That just compounds the hurt that is going on.”

Hansen urged people to keep reaching out for help. Steve Beck, Belle Plaine City Manager, said there are a lot of people hurting and he wished there was more access to mental health help. Grassley co-sponsored a bill to help those dealing with bankruptcy.

Grassley staff added they are there to help navigate the bureaucracy. He’s there to get answers. Grassley added, “It may not be the answer you like, but you’re entitled to an answer.”

Helping

Grassley observed, “Everybody in this area is hurting. There’s no way around it.” Junge agreed, saying it was “equal opportunity” whether one lived in the country or the town.

“There’s a lot of angst out in the countryside right now,” said Iowa State Sen. Tim Kapucian, R-Keystone. A lot of us are anxious about where we’re going to be and where we’re going to end up.” He thanked Grassley for taking those concerns to Secretary Perdue.

Kapucian added that Iowans are used to taking care of themselves. “Normally we don’t ask for anything,” said Kapucian. “I’m sure you recognized that when we ask for FEMA, it is definitely needed.”

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