Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Farmers hoping for a little government climate cash to help them through a string of adverse seasons should be very careful what they wish for.
Politicians say nothing, but US farmers are increasingly terrified by it – climate change
Fri 19 Oct 2018 23.00 AEDT
Research forecasts Iowa corn yields could drop in half within the next half-century thanks to extreme weather – yet it’s not part of the political conversation
This year, crops in north-west Iowa are looking spotty. Up into Minnesota they were battered by spring storms and late planting, and then inundated again in late summer. Where they aren’t washed out, they’re weedy or punky. If you go south in Buena Vista county, where I live in Storm Lake, the corn stands tall and firm.
Welcome to climate change, Iowa-style.
This drainage system is delivering runoff rich in farm fertilizer to the Mississippi river complex and the Gulf of Mexico, where the nitrate from Iowa and Illinois corn fields is growing a dead zone the size of New Jersey. The shrimping industry is being deprived of oxygen so Iowa farmers can chase 200 bushels of corn per acre – and hope against hope that corn will somehow increase in price as we plow up every last acre.
Few politicians in the five states around here are talking about regulating agriculture in an era of warmer and wetter nights and long droughts. Yet farmers are paying attention. Hatfield says that conventional producers in the Raccoon river watershed are starting to focus on profitability reports from sustainable agriculture groups like the Practical Farmers of Iowa. They advocate a rotating crop-livestock land use with more diverse plantings that can restore soil and make farmers more resilient – and get them off that expensive chemical jones. Because, the government doesn’t appear equipped to deal with it.
My thought to farmers – invite the politicians to your table at your peril.
The bait is the offer of climate cash – the possibility of easier access to disaster relief, more cover for lean times, for when a string of bad seasons hammer farm finances. The hook is increased political regulation of farming practices, a long list of impractical government enforced ideas dreamed up by city based green elitists, starting with mandatory reductions in the use of nitrate fertiliser.