Many farmers in the Midwest still say climate change is bogus

E&E  • Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Despite recent extreme weather events — flooding in 2011 and drought in 2012 — many Midwestern farmers still deny the existence of global warming.

By 2030, climate change could cause $1.1 billion to $4.1 billion in losses for Corn Belt farmers, according to the Agriculture Department. Yet only 68 percent of Iowa farmers said they believed the climate was changing, and only about 10 percent of them attributed it to human causes, said an Iowa State University poll.

“It’s more God and nature’s dictates, rather than a man-made event,” said Kevin Mainord, a Missouri farmer who harvested a corn crop one-quarter of its normal size last week.

Though recent months have seen the hottest temperatures on record, climate skepticism is rampant among farmers, who often have the most to lose as extreme weather events become more frequent. However, most say they will rely on government subsidies or insurance when times are tough, and policymakers have taken this mantra to heart.

The government will spend $170 million to buy meat and help livestock ranchers devastated by the drought, according to Tom Vilsack, the Agriculture secretary. Farmers are pushing a bill that would further fund assistance. However, when Congress last attempted to pass climate legislation, the 6.2-million-member American Farm Bureau Federation helped defeat it.

With or without legislation, temperatures will continue to rise as they have for years, according to statistics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These warmer conditions allow the skies to hold more water vapor. Now, when rain falls, it’s likely to do so in powerful storms rather than steady showers.

“The Midwest has really seen a remarkable change over recent decades in the dosing of precipitation. The overall trend is up, but the character is that more and more of that precipitation is delivered in large doses,” said Deke Arndt of the climate monitoring branch at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (Gregory Meyer, Financial Times, Aug. 15). — MBI