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Hail damages west central Minnesota crops

Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of crops were damaged during a storm July 11 that traveled from Atwater to Nicollet County.

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Badly-damaged soybean field pictured Monday, July 18, 2012, located near the Southern Minnesota Sugar Beat Cooperative's piling station along U.S. Highway 212 between Buffalo Lake and Stewart, Minnesota. Photo courtesy of David Nicolai / Minnesota Extension Service.

WILLMAR — Brian Ryberg was at his cabin near Willmar last weekend when he got the call that a hail storm had ripped through his farmland.

“We’ve obviously had hail in the past, but I was just sick to my stomach when I got to our farms to see this total loss,” Ryberg said. “You work so hard and put all those plans together and then have this happen.”

Ryberg said about 20% of the crops at Ryberg Farms that he owns and operates with his wife, Sandy, were damaged during the July 11 storm, with about 500 acres being a total loss.

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The business has been around for about 25 years and Ryberg said he’s never seen anything like this with some corn, soybean and sugar beet fields being destroyed.

“The corn, right in our worst area, there’s nothing left,” Ryberg said, adding that this was the worst time of the year for this to have happened. The corn was just beginning to tassel and in the production stage of forming the ear.

“In our case, you look in the field and there’s absolutely no leaves left on the stalk,” Ryberg said. “It looks like you went out there and put bamboo sticks in a row.”

Tallying the total damage of the storm will take some time as individual insurance adjusters go out to assess the damage, according to the University of Minnesota Extension crops educator Dave Nicolai.

While the storm’s hail damage was narrow, stretching two to six miles in width, the path stretched over 40 miles diagonally from Atwater into areas of Nicollet County.

That path may have led some farmers to a total crop loss but also others would have experienced a partial loss.

The total impact of the destruction won’t be known until everything is finally tallied up.

“You can easily have hundreds of thousand dollars of damage or along those lines,” Nicolai said. “I don't know if I could categorize this as millions of dollars or something like that because there's no way to know yet at this point in time.”

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Nicolai said it’s too late in the year to replant and gain any of that value back, but that farmers may be able to recycle the nutrients in the soil by planting a cover crop and that insurance will help recover some losses.

Ryberg said he thinks there will be some type of assistance from the government to farmers affected by the hail because of the sheer amount damaged. Ryberg said he estimates at least $50,000 in damages was done to his land.

“We do have some insurance but insurance never gets you whole,” Ryberg said.

According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s communication director Margaret Hart, there are no state programs that would provide assistance for farmers lacking insurance coverage.

“If a state of federal disaster declaration is made, then they would be eligible for our Disaster Loan Program under the Minnesota Rural Finance Authority,” Hart wrote in an email.

Hart also wrote that she wasn’t aware of anything in the works to seek a disaster declaration.

Mark Wasson has been a public safety reporter with Post Bulletin since May 2022. Previously, he worked as a general assignment reporter in the southwest metro and as a public safety reporter in Willmar, Minn. Readers can reach Mark at mwasson@postbulletin.com.
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