WASHINGTON — Iowa farmers who are still working to recover from losses caused by the derecho last August would likely see benefits in a bill being introduced by Iowa Congressman Randy Feenstra.
The Republican from Hull says the legislation would bring derecho relief through an existing federal program that targets farmers and ranchers who were hit by other natural disasters last year. “The program is out there already through the U.S.D.A. called the WHIP Plus program, it’s a wildfire and hurricane indemnity fund,” Feenstra says. “What that fund is, it’s strictly for wildfires and hurricanes, so what the bill is simply doing is adding derechos and just for 2020 disasters.”
Feenstra tried to attach a derecho relief package to the 1.9-trillion dollar reconciliation bill last year, but failed. He says Democrats have pledged to help support the measure now that it’s a free-standing bill. “They sort of promised, saying, ‘Hey, we can’t take your amendment because we’re not taking any amendments, but if you do something else, we’re going to help,’” Feenstra says. “So now we’re pretty excited that we’ve got a stand-alone bill, working with the Ag Committee, working with everybody, hoping to get this one over the finish line.”
Feenstra says derecho assistance is still direly needed and could make the difference of some producers staying in business or going belly up. “It’s very significant for all of the farming community in central Iowa and so forth,” Feenstra says. “I’ve had a lot of producers talk to me saying, ‘Boy, I’m on the verge of not making it.’ We can only hope we can get this thing passed and get some help and subsidies to those who lost everything in the derecho.”
The August 10th derecho was the most destructive thunderstorm in United States’ history, causing more than 13-billion dollars damage, most of it in Iowa. It packed peak winds of 140 miles-an-hour, the equivalent of an EF-3 tornado or a category-four hurricane.