Economist: Derecho's Destruction Could Affect Entire Ag Economy

Aug 14, 2020

The derecho in northwest Iowa.
Credit Dave Nicks / Via National Weather Service

A farm economist says the severe storm earlier this week was so big, it could affect the entire farm economy.

The storm was a fast-moving, straight-line windstorm. Meteorologists call it a derecho.

It started in the Dakotas on Monday. Then it picked up speed and blew all the way to Ohio. Wind speeds reached about 100 miles an hour. Farm fields were flattened.

Kevin McNew is the chief economist for the Farmers Business Network. He said the storm could take a sizable chunk out of the harvest. The reduced supply could drive prices higher for farmers who escaped the destruction.

“Our estimates are we could see 20 to 30 cents higher on corn if the impact is severe as kind of publicized right now," McNew said.

But there’s another factor at play. McNew said the storm wrecked lots of grain bins and elevators. That could drive prices down if there aren’t enough places to store grain.

Southeastern South Dakota was hit with 70 mile an hour winds and 2-inch hail.

Iowa may have been bit the hardest. The governor there said the storm damaged more than 15,000 square miles of farm fields. Some look like they were flattened by a steamroller.

McNew said the storm is unprecedented.

“I’ve been in this business for 30 years as an analyst and growing up on a farm as a kid, so I don’t remember anything of this kind of bent that is this big a magnitude. I mean it is 700 miles long and very wide. So we’re sort of scrambling as an industry to figure out just how big was it, and what was the impact?”

The U.S. Ag Department says nearly 20 percent of the nation’s corn crop comes from Iowa.

- Seth Tupper is SDPB's business and economic development reporter.