Guest Columnist

In derecho's wake, Iowa has a chance to make agriculture resilient

Damaged corn is seen near Mount Vernon, Iowa on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. About a third of Iowa's corn crop was destroyed
Damaged corn is seen near Mount Vernon, Iowa on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. About a third of Iowa's corn crop was destroyed in the derecho that produced 140 mph winds throughout central Iowa on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

The devastating storm that tore through Iowa last week was just a sample of extreme weather events in store for our state if we fail to confront the realities of climate change. This fast moving derecho, qualifying as a category 2 hurricane with winds topping 100 mph, whipped through the state, causing widespread power failures and severe damage to homes, businesses and millions of acres of crops.

Last summer Iowa was hit with severe floods resulting in several thousand acres of unrecovered farmland. Farm Bureau economists estimated Iowa’s flood damage at $2 billion. This summer there is not enough rain, causing extreme drought conditions. Damages for all these extreme weather events are catastrophic to the economy, causing hardships throughout the state, especially the vulnerable rural communities. Climate scientists have linked increased frequency of severe weather events to climate change driven primarily by excess greenhouse gas emissions.

I was in Grenada, West Indies in 2004 when Hurricane Ivan ravaged the country. Ninety percent of the infrastructure on the island was damaged. The financial cost of all the damages was estimated at $900 million, more than twice the country’s GDP. Because of what I’ve experienced in Grenada, and what I’m now witnessing in Iowa, it is clear that we can no longer delay action on climate change. Research from the best scientists and farmers in Iowa has shown us that cover crops and healthy soils can literally pull carbon from the atmosphere, helping mitigate severe weather disturbances linked to excess greenhouse gases.

The Agriculture Resiliency Act (ARA), sponsored by U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine, makes farms and farmers more resilient in a changing climate while empowering them to become part of the climate solution by getting to net-zero agriculture emissions, increasing soil health and water quality, creating new markets for new products, promoting grasslands, more livestock grazing and small independent meat processors and increasing more on-farm renewable energy.

The ARA is a landmark bill and needs more co-sponsors, including Iowa’s four U.S. representatives. You can learn more about the bill at pingree.house.gov/netzeroagriculture. Together, we can make Iowa farms more productive and resilient to the coming storms.

Christine Curry of West Des Moines is an active member of the Izaak Walton League, Citizens Climate Lobby and several other conservation organizations.

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