Last week my hometown of Tama-Toledo, and the eastern part of the state of Iowa suffered what will most likely be one of the greatest storms it will ever see, if not the greatest. The monstrous storm came in without warning and just like that, left behind devastation of epic proportion. This weather event is called a derecho, or a straight-line wind coupled with rain that had force up to 116mph, which is now being dubbed as “Hurricane Iowa”.
But I’m not writing a meteorology lesson; I’m underscoring the magnitude of destruction “Hurricane Iowa” had and is continuing to have on my community, the State, and will have on the economy. Right now as I type, my friends and family are without power, utilizing generators for power if they even have a house left. Many of these people are working endlessly to cleanup the debris just to have roadways or to make areas safe for passage. Power lines and transformers were thrown into my oldest brother’s backyard, leaving live wires strewn about. The nearest gas station with working pumps the day after the storm was over 40 miles away. The volunteer fire station is manned 24/7 for people to come and seek assistance from emergency management. In the morning, the coffee is made on the grill, and if food in the fridge survived, it’s also going on the grill. Neighbors are checking on each other, trying to ensure that no one suffers any more than they already have at this point.
This description is only a minute fraction of the hell that my town is suffering!
Here’s the bigger picture, Iowa’s agricultural economy is second in the nation in commodities exports with around $10.6 Billion; California being the first. To put that in perspective, Iowa has around 3.1 million people, California has 39.8 million. Iowa ranks 3rd in the number of farms. Iowa ranks second in cash receipts with $27.4 billion. Iowa leads the nation in pork, corn, egg, and commercial red meat production. The state is first in the nation for the most total capacity of grain storage at 3.6 billion bushels. Second in the nation for soybean production.
I say this all to SAY, farms were completely wiped out. The crops lay on the ground. If the stalks are broken, there will be no crop to harvest, and there will be no commodity. That lovely picture that Ashton Kutcher tweeted to the President was a friend of my family. He will not have a crop this year, and his yard and house suffered damage too. Livestock died in their lots, which means those juicy pork chops that we are used to getting at the store, not so much.
Even if there were a crop to harvest, there are NO grain bins to put the crop in. Harvestors are bent and twisted in the most mangled ways one could even imagine. Some are even flat out flattened. Imagine a giant, thick metal bin taken out by Mother Nature herself. Gone in a hot second.
Now I was a kid during the 80s drought. Our farm survived that crisis, barely. My grandfather had a sixth-grade education, but he did something right. My brothers and I own my dad’s farm with our uncles, and we will ride this out as well. The crops are gone; everyone is tired; the cleanup will be long; people want showers and electricity to cook. Over 2000 lineman from all over the country arrived in our county alone to help restore power, and they are tired too.
To those who’ve made it to this point in my open letter, I thank you. My friends and family are going to suffer economic losses along with the agricultural economy, and what they really want are the basics. They are Midwesterners, and they help each other out. Most often, their proud spirit will not ask for help so I narrated it for them.
For our elected officials.
Senator Grassley, Senator Ernst. THIS.IS.YOUR.STATE! Your people need you. Agriculture needs you.
We need housing. FEMA needs to be on the ground.
Devin Boerm grew up in the Tama-Toledo area and lived on a farm for the better part of her childhood. For several years, she worked in the Iowa Legislature before leaving the state of Iowa. She is now a government relations executive currently living in Washington, DC, where she has lived for the past 10 years.