Climate Change – How the 4th District of Iowa Can Be Leaders by Carbon Farming
Growing up in the 80s, I was taught to dream big. I love it when the U.S. is innovative and a respected leader. That’s why last week during the international climate talks in Bonn, Germany, I was disappointed when the official American delegates were relatively non-existent and non-influential. This is a stark contrast to climate summits when President Obama was in office and exemplifies America’s division on climate talks. Governor Jerry Brown of California commented on the division when he said, “There’s a debate in the United States between the denialists who pooh-pooh any thought about climate change and the catastrophic dangers it portends, and those who agree with the scientific academies of every country in the world that we’re facing an existential threat and we have to do something about it.”
Earlier this month, 13 federal agencies unveiled an exhaustive scientific report saying:
…humans are the dominant cause of the global temperature rise that has created the warmest period in the history of civilization.
Over the past 115 years global average temperatures have increased 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, leading to record-breaking weather events and temperature extremes. The global, long-term warming trend is “unambiguous,” and there is “no convincing alternative explanation” that anything other than humans — the cars we drive, the power plants we operate, the forests we destroy — are to blame.
The time to address this issue is NOW. The time to create policy is NOW. For those who do not believe in climate change, the question of “Why you don’t believe?” is irrelevant. The question now is “What part of climate change don’t you understand?”
My own representative in the U.S. House (and my opponent), Steve King, has said of global warming, “It’s not proven, it’s not science. It’s more of a religion than a science.” This kind of ignorant denial is harmful not only to the people of this district, but for future generations of people all over the planet. It is imperative that we take immediate action to combat climate change.
The burning of fossil fuels is creating more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere can handle. This is scary stuff. I wish this was an issue we could deal with in 20 years, but it’s not. This issue took on an increased importance for me when I read that the Defense Department classified climate change as America’s top threat. Then, this summer I saw the wildfires of Western U.S.; I saw the hurricane destructions of Houston, Key West, and Puerto Rico.
How has Iowa’s climate been negatively affected by these changes? Here’s how:
- More frequent and more intense rains
- More intense and more frequent droughts between the rainfalls
- More humidity (increase in molds and fungi)
In the last century, we’ve lost half of our topsoil. Our roads and bridges were built to withstand the 100-year flood but that 100-year flood is now turning into the 25-year flood. This is a food security issue and an infrastructure issue. My campaign is a fight to ensure that our farmlands are economically and environmentally thriving because that’s what I want when I pass our family’s farm down to the next generation after me.
What can we do? One of the reasons I love Iowa so much is that we are proud people and we like to be leaders. When I was growing up in the Sioux City school system, we were “First in the Nation in Education.” Now, we lead in eggs, pork, corn, biodiesel, ethanol and wind energy. My 4th Congressional District is the most rural district in arguably the best agriculture state in the nation. If there’s too much carbon dioxide in the air, the obvious answer is to take some out. That’s why my vision is to have IA04 become a leader in CARBON FARMING.
There are a number of things we need to do to combat climate change. Carbon farming is one that hasn’t been talked about enough, and Iowa is uniquely positioned to lead the way. This takes excess carbon out of the air and puts it into our soil. In each acre of land, there’s about an elephant-sized amount of organisms that use this carbon. This benefits and strengthens the soil by creating organic matter. Carbon farming is a win-win.
Here’s an example of how it benefits. I talked to a couple that carbon farm. Last summer, one of their fields was pounded by an 7 inch rain. (We used to see a 7-10 inch rain about once every 3 years, while this past summer we saw 3 of those.)Because of these farmers’ participation in carbon farming, their soil was strong enough to withstand this rain. Their neighbors’ farm lost a third of its yield and what used to be an ideal flat field has several major dips on it because that storm caused major erosion.
How do we implement this?
It starts with a strong but flexible conservation title within the farm bill. The goal is for the Federal and State governments to work together. When I was a kid, I remember my grandpa taking me out to the part of his land that was part of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Back then the idea of the program was to put whole fields into the program. Now we know if you put a field that was part of CRP for 10 years back into rotation, you can lose the 10 years of organic matter in as fast as 9 months.
That’s why I believe in target conservation. Every farm is different. Every acre of every farm is different. We have the technology now to identify the areas that would benefit the soil, benefit the climate, and maximize the yield by implementing target conservation. Increasing the use of prairie strips is one notable example of an instrumental way to help deal with Iowa’s current water crisis.
There’s no going around it. The burning of fossil fuels is changing our environment. It’s affecting Iowa and changing the way we need to look at farming. Food security is dependent on soil security. We aren’t inheriting the land from our parents, we’re borrowing it from our children.
Standing Tall for All by Standing Tall for Climate,
A big “THANK YOU” to Liz Garst, Darwin Pierce, David Thoreson, and the other academic experts that helped contribute to the research and understanding of this important issue.