Read

Search form

What Does Climate Change Look Like? Farmers Are Living It

What Does Climate Change Look Like? Farmers Are Living It
Tue, 5/13/2014 - by Claire O'Connor
This article originally appeared on NRDC

Matt Russell has seen strange weather before. As a fifth-generation Iowa farmer, he's used to being at the whims of the skies. But ominous changes are underway at his Coyote Run Farm, and lately, he's been trying to cope with "the wrong weather at the wrong time."

Like Matt, I grew up as the fifth generation on my family's farm. In fact, my 83-year-old grandfather, Art, is out planting corn with my dad this week. In Art's eight decades in the field, he's seen his share of tough times. When he was just a little boy, he saw his family's crops wither up, die and blow away into the Dust Bowl. Like many American families, the Great Depression tested our family's commitment to farming.

But we persevered, and out of the devastation of the Dust Bowl, a new era of hope and progress for American farmers was born. Under the leadership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farmers began viewing soil conservation as a key risk management tool.

On our farm and many others, we learned that protecting the soil was paramount to surviving future dry years. And although dry times such as the 1950s and 1980s were challenging, the conservation lessons learned from the Dust Bowl era lessened their impact on my family's operations.

Now, we are at another critical moment for agriculture. Climate change is bringing more frequent and severe weather challenges, unlike any that farmers have seen before, and already farmers are feeling the effects. Countless scientists agree that climate change will affectevery part of our food system — from crop yields to food processing and distribution. More dry days and hot nights will stress already limited water resources. And when it does rain, it will pour, exacerbating soil erosion.

Farmers will need to confront new challenges from weeds, diseases and pests. But farmers don't need a scientist to tell them times are tough. They can just look out their windows. Listen to what Arlyn Schipper, a Conrad, Iowa farmer, has to say.

So how will we confront the climate challenge facing American farmers? Will we ignore the ominous reality of climate change? Or will we take steps to improve farms' resiliency to extreme weather and prevent the worst impacts of climate change?

We know what needs to be done. We learned after the Dust Bowl that farmers have one of the best "insurance policies" right beneath their boots — their very own soil. Healthy soil is more resilient to extreme weather events such as droughts and floods because it can filter and hold more water. The new "normal" of climate change calls for us to redouble our efforts to build healthy soil.

NRDC's "Soil Matters" report describes how we can build farms that are more resilient to climate change by encouraging low risk, water-smart practices that regenerate soil. Under NRDC's proposal, farmers who adopt proven techniques, like cover cropping, to reduce their risk of crop loss would receive a discount on their crop insurance policies. This could be done under existing law, and could have widespread benefits for farmers, taxpayers and the environment.

But the longer we wait, the harder the job will be. Scientists agree that the increased concentration of heat-trapping carbon pollution in our atmosphere is the key reason that our climate is changing, and power plants are responsible for nearly half of that pollution. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the first carbon pollution limits for future power plants, and is on track to propose limits for existing power plants by early June. These new protections will help reduce the carbon pollution that is threatening American agriculture and our food security.

After the Dust Bowl, American farmers didn't throw up their hands in despair. They got to work, planting windbreaks, building terraces and making conservation a way of life. Now it's our turn. Climate change is a tough challenge, but we know what we need to do. We need to regenerate our landscapes to build resilient farms, and we need protections from the power plant carbon pollution that's threatening our food supply. It's time to act. The next five generations of farmers depend on it.

Originally published by NRDC

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

Pakistan wetlands, wetlands destruction, climate impacts on Pakistan, biodiversity loss, species loss, wastewater

Rapid population growth, wastewater pollution, an increase in dams – and sweeping changes wrought by climate change – are imperiling Pakistan's treasured wetlands and river systems.

EpiPen, Heather Bresch, Joe Manchin, Mylan Pharmaceutical

Sen. Amy Klobuchar has demanded hearings on the EpiPen’s 450 percent price increase in just seven years.

marijuana, public banking, Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Because marijuana continues to be classified as a Schedule 1 drug, private banks are effectively prohibited from fully participating in this market.

income inequality, the 99%, Occupy Wall Street

It may not improve much next year, if House Republicans have their way.

act out, occupy, art, creative activism, private prisons, DOJ, CCA, GEO, ICE, federal bureau of prisons, 2016 olympic games, olympics in rio, olympic devastation, favela, brazilian government, dilma rousseff, michel temer, income inequality, solutionary

This week: The DOJ announced that they're breaking up with private prisons.

corporate takeover, fascism, dictators, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco, corporate fascism, anti-immigrant policies, racism, xenophobia

A new brand of fascism and far-right ideology is on the march, with demagogues moving towards power from Austria to the U.S., France to Finland, Greece to Germany.

Posted 5 days 2 hours ago
Hillary Clinton, corporate presidency, Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP, oil and gas industry, fracking, Ken Salazar, John Podesta, Bernie Sanders, Tim Kaine, Democratic National Committee, DNC

Rhetoric aside, Clinton is showing her full solidarity with Wall Street – most recently with the announcement that former Interior Secretary and oil and gas industry insider Ken Salazar will chair her transition team.

Posted 3 days 22 hours ago

A hacking group calling itself the “ShadowBrokers” is auctioning off authentic NSA software, part of a powerful constellation of tools used to covertly infect computers worldwide.

Posted 5 days 3 hours ago
EpiPen, Heather Bresch, Joe Manchin, Mylan Pharmaceutical

Sen. Amy Klobuchar has demanded hearings on the EpiPen’s 450 percent price increase in just seven years.

Posted 2 days 3 hours ago
Black Lives Matter, George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Alicia Garza,

Again and again, the movement has challenged the abandonment of Black communities underlying a wave of police violence.

Posted 3 days 22 hours ago
corporate takeover, fascism, dictators, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco, corporate fascism, anti-immigrant policies, racism, xenophobia

A new brand of fascism and far-right ideology is on the march, with demagogues moving towards power from Austria to the U.S., France to Finland, Greece to Germany.

Hillary Clinton, corporate presidency, Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP, oil and gas industry, fracking, Ken Salazar, John Podesta, Bernie Sanders, Tim Kaine, Democratic National Committee, DNC

Rhetoric aside, Clinton is showing her full solidarity with Wall Street – most recently with the announcement that former Interior Secretary and oil and gas industry insider Ken Salazar will chair her transition team.

marijuana, public banking, Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Because marijuana continues to be classified as a Schedule 1 drug, private banks are effectively prohibited from fully participating in this market.

Pakistan wetlands, wetlands destruction, climate impacts on Pakistan, biodiversity loss, species loss, wastewater

Rapid population growth, wastewater pollution, an increase in dams – and sweeping changes wrought by climate change – are imperiling Pakistan's treasured wetlands and river systems.

act out, occupy, art, creative activism, private prisons, DOJ, CCA, GEO, ICE, federal bureau of prisons, 2016 olympic games, olympics in rio, olympic devastation, favela, brazilian government, dilma rousseff, michel temer, income inequality, solutionary

This week: The DOJ announced that they're breaking up with private prisons.