As farmers split from the GOP on climate change, they’re getting billions to fight it

Soybeans are fed from a combine during harvesting at a field in Rippey, Iowa, in 2019.

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Soybeans are fed from a combine during harvesting at a field in Rippey, Iowa, in 2019.

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If you ask Iowa farmer Rob Evold about the federal dollars he’s received over the years to help make his land more sustainable, it’s clear he’s a big fan.

“It works really well in our operation,” says Ewald, who farms corn and soybeans on “just shy of 2,000 acres” near Davenport, Iowa. “We see tremendous benefits in conservation, water quality and carbon sequestration.”

He has been associated with the Conservation Management Program, or CSP, for nearly eight years. The program aims to help farmers improve yields, increase their fields’ resilience to extreme weather, and maintain and improve their conservation systems – such as no-till and cover crops.

The “soil health” in his farm at that time [has] have improved to the point where we see yield gains in our farming practices. …we can see those yields increasing year after year. That’s where the real benefits come in,” he says.

The government’s conservation programs are meant to boost farmers’ response to climate change, as Evold and others like him are forced to face worsening droughts on the one hand, and unprecedented rainfall and flooding on the other. Does matter. But with more than billions in federal aid on the way, the massive infusion of funds from the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act by Democrats will reshape politics in the solid Republican state of Iowa, and neither will other rural Will shift the dial to farmers in the areas. Where the GOP is going to have an irrevocable foothold.

Farmers will get billions more for protection

The CSP was enacted as part of the 2008 Farm Bill, but the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, which was passed by Democrats on a direct party-line vote, added $20 billion to help farmers in particular. Other conservation programs have been added for the purpose of Effects of climate change.

“It’s a big chunk of funding relative to what they’ve had in recent years,” says Cathy Day, climate policy coordinator with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. She says that in the past, programs have been diluted so much that “we typically have 3 to 4 times more farmers applying than those who get contracts.”

The programs can have a huge impact on farmers and the environment, says Sarah Nichols, a policy strategist at Pennsylvania-based nonprofit Pasa Sustainable Agriculture. She cites a 2015 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council showing that “for every additional 1% of organic matter that gets into the soil, which a lot of these CSP programs are trying to practice, they become a soil source.” can capture an additional 20,000 gallons of rain per acre.”

“If you think about a flood-prone state like Pennsylvania… it would only make a difference if you had so much extra rain before running out of fields, into creeks, breaking and tearing down bridges and culverts and infrastructure. can capture,” she says.

Ewaldt, who acknowledges climate change and says farmers “need to work to mitigate it,” acknowledges that his farming practices “allow my soil to hold more water during drought conditions.” given.”

He says additional government funding is a good thing. But Evold’s congressional representative, Marianette Miller-Meeks, sided with her fellow Republicans in unanimously rejecting the Inflation Reduction Act. “Now is not the time to pass a $740 billion spending bill, let alone one riddled with partisan priorities,” she said in a statement.

Ewoldt plans to vote for him anyway.

“I know him,” he says. “And that includes other things besides economics.”

More farmers are pushing the GOP on climate

Evold’s attitude towards climate change reflects a growing trend among farmers. A survey published in 2021 suggests that almost 80% of farmers now believe that climate change is happening. This is a huge change from just eight years ago, when a survey of four states indicated that most did not accept the concept of climate change or that its effects would reduce their crop yields.

The time period in which that switch occurred coincides with seven of the warmest years on record globally, as well as climate-fueled fires, floods and heat waves in the US.

Still, as a group, the farmers have remained steadfast in support of Republicans, despite the party’s history closely intertwined with denying the scientific consensus on climate change. (Although generally among Republican voters, there has been a significant change from a decade ago).

Farmers have been supportive of former President Donald Trump, despite a more than 60% drop in agricultural exports to China despite the trade war with Beijing, according to the US International Trade Administration. And this summer, Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee have already called for cutting commodity and conservation programs in the new farm bill, which will come to Congress next year.

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A farmer praises President Trump as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy looks on during a law-signing rally with local farmers in Bakersfield, Calif., February 2020.

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A farmer praises President Trump as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy looks on during a law-signing rally with local farmers in Bakersfield, Calif., February 2020.

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Evold, who says he is a lifelong Republican, voted for Trump twice, even though the then-president from 2017 to 2019 was “sad for agricultural production” due in large part to the trade war. Ahead of the 2020 election, he told NPR that Trump “represented the devil I know and not the devil I don’t know.”

Tim Dufault, 62, works on 1,600 acres in northwestern Minnesota, near the town of Crookston. He has seen a lot of changes in the agricultural sectors in the state over the past several decades, which he attributes to climate change.

“It’s hard to deny that the world is warming,” he says.

The mix of crops in his corner of the state is very different than when he started farming four decades ago. “There is hardly any barley, sunflower, [or] Potatoes are no more because it has become hot and wet and it is hard to get a good quality crop,” he says.

“Meanwhile, warm-weather crops like soybeans and corn have moved into the region. So, you know, that kind of really tells the story,” says Dufault, who calls himself “a liberal, but mostly a Democrat.” as described.

Business often outweighs concerns about climate

Scott Vanderwaal, president of the South Dakota Farm Bureau, counts himself among those who see that the climate – or at least the weather – is changing, but disagrees with the scientific consensus on the cause. “The climate has been changing since the Earth’s formation and we have gone through cycles before,” he says.

Vanderwaal says Trump’s trade dispute with China hurt farmers in South Dakota, but now his frustration with President Biden is not extending beyond his predecessor’s policies.

In 2020, Phase 1 of a new trade deal with China went into effect, with Beijing agreeing to buy US agricultural products for $80 billion in the first year.

Vanderwaal wonders what will happen next. “We’ve asked them what the future holds [is]”It’s been almost two years now, and we’ve heard almost nothing about international trade,” he says.

Democrats face tough challenge to win rural vote

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President Biden speaks during a visit to Menlo, Iowa in April. The Inflation Reduction Act, passed by Democrats on a party-line vote, has added $20 billion to conservation programs aimed at helping farmers combat climate change.

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President Biden speaks during a visit to Menlo, Iowa in April. The Inflation Reduction Act, passed by Democrats on a party-line vote, has added $20 billion to conservation programs aimed at helping farmers combat climate change.

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Given rural voting patterns, which heavily support Republicans in more rural states, moving farmers to the Blue Column may seem impossible for Democrats.

The task is made even more difficult by Trump’s unquestioning dominance of his own party.

“Rural America has been mostly Republican for a few generations,” says David Hopkins, a professor of political science at Boston College. “But Trump did much better.”

A lot of rural counties used to be 60-40 Republicans in states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania “all of a sudden there were 70-30 Republicans or more” for Trump, he says.

Still, Democrats don’t need to win over the majority of farmers. Instead, “If they can cut back those margins [and] Rural areas may be able to regain some of their lost ground over the past 10 years, which could be really important in some of those war-torn states,” he says.

To get there, Democrats need a lesson in how to speak to voters outside their urban base, says Isaac Wright, co-founder of the Rural Voter Institute, a progressive research firm.

“Our values ​​are not the issue,” he insists. “It’s how we communicate and often how we fail to communicate.”

“For one thing, I would like to emphasize using the phrase ‘climate change,'” Wright says. “I’ll talk about how [these programs] Help build our farming communities, especially our small farms, with investments for stewardship. and for long-term clean air and clean water investments.”

Timothy Hegley, an associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa, says it’s also important for Democrats to realize that just hitting economic issues won’t be enough.

“Yes, a farmer is going to be worried about crop prices,” he says. “but … [farmers] I also care about immigration or what’s going on with my kids in schools.”

“They are not necessarily voting on just one issue, even if that one issue appears to be very important, as it pertains to their way of living.”

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