Farmers: Crop damage will hurt through next year - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Farmers: Crop damage will hurt through next year

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WINNESHIEK COUNTY (KWWL) -- Damage to crop land in northeast Iowa is still being assessed after a severe hailstorm more than a week ago. In Winneshiek county, thousands of acres are a total loss. Many farmers say the impact will be felt into next year's growing season.

"The first year was the drought of 1988, which for us was hard, but it wasn't anything like this," Ron Hemesath said of his first year of farming 21 years ago.

Hemesath farms nearly 2,000 acres with his brother; they farm mostly corn and beans, but some hay also. Between land in Winneshiek and Fayette counties, he says around 800 acres are a total loss (roughly 700 corn and 100 beans).

"I'd say you couldn't have picked a worse day of the year, maybe. The corn was right at tassel pollination which is the reproductive part of the corn cycle," Hemesath said.

In a field off 220th Avenue just north of Ossian, all the tassels and ears are destroyed, so there's no grain producing capability.

"Usually when you get hail, and it's earlier in the season, you can get some regrowth, and it's not as big a deal, or you can replant if it's early enought, but this one's pretty much it for this year. That took care of it," Hemesath said.

More trouble in the county comes from the fact that many dairy farmers in the area grow their own corn. Now their feed is gone.

"They're going to either have to find alternative feed sources or try to hook up with another farmer and buy corn silage from the areas where it's not destroyed," Hemesath said.

Hemesath has hail and federal crop insurance, but he'll have to wait and see what that will be. Federal crop insurance is figured in the fall after harvest based on the total yield (with surviving crops).

"It's going to be obviously 15 months until we grow another crop, so it's going to be harder on next year. It's going to be a lot of revenue lost."

Some farmers say they may be able to salvage some beans, as they could regrow enough to produce a small crop. The corn, they say, can be tougher to recover because of the significant loss of leaves.

Agriculture officials say crop damage from the July 24th storms in northeast Iowa and southern Wisconsin could total $100 million. Almost 260,000 acres were damaged in the tri-state area according to emergency management offices.

On Friday, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey toured the damage in Fayette County. He hopes funds will arrive soon so farmers can at least take out loans to pay for losses. So far, none of the affected counties have been declared state or federal disaster areas.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

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