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Local farmers feeling impact of derecho during harvest

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grain bins
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Benda's farm before the derecho
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Benda farm
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Benda farm
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Benda farm
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Benda farm

TAMA COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) -- Iowa's top agriculture official says the number of lost crops will likely rise as the harvest continues.

“If you were looking at an above average crop this year and now you're dealing with a crop insurance claim, that's challenging because you can never be made whole," said Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig.

The latest numbers showing that more than 825,000 crops were lost to that high windstorm. Iowa's latest crop report shows 90% of soybeans and 65% of corn has been harvested.

"We don't have a lot to harvest," said Brian Benda, whose family farm is in Tama County, growing both soybeans and corn.

Between Brian, his brother brad, and his nephew the farm has 1,350 acres of corn. Due to the derecho's strong winds, which downed their corn, only 120 acres could be harvested.

"I mean you spent all year growing this," said Benda. "You planted it. You raised it. You want to go harvest it but now you're just tearing it. You're thinking 'oh, I can harvest that' and then drive a little further and think 'oh no I can't.'"

Benda also lost the top of what he calls the "icon" of the farm, a barn with a Gothic arch. It's a sentimental loss that he plains to rebuild, even though the cost will be more than what its insured for.

A few miles from his farm lies fields owned and worked by another farmer, Chris Svoboda.

Svoboda lost a number of crops to the storm and was still harvesting as of Wednesday. He's got about a third left, but it's not been easy.

While on the combine, Svoboda explained that while some of his crops may look okay from the roadway but it's deceptive. He has to pay extra attention to stay aligned with the rows of corn as the stalks are down intermittently.

Also, recent rains haven't helped his harvest.

"This year we had decent weather getting most of the good corn out. Now we're fighting weather again and try to get the last few acres out and then dealing with cleaning up the stuff that's down," Svoboda said.

Secretary Naig mentioned that this crop struggle serves as a good reminder how necessary crop insurance is. Thankfully, both Svoboda and the Bendas have crop insurance.

"The company I'm through, they're just so overwhelmed, they're telling guys to get what you can get and once you're done harvesting call us again," Svoboda said.

For aid other than insurance, Naig mentioned CFAP, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which offers relief to farmers while also fighting food insecurity.

Secretary Naig also mentioned that there were talks with members of congress about how the federal government aid Iowa farmers. With the derecho now considered one of the costliest storms in the US, Naig is hopeful.

Svoboda hopes they don't "drag their feet."

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Taylor Vessel

Multimedia Reporter

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