Droughts, floods, more frequent and devastating storms and a novel virus — clearly Mother Nature is not happy with us. The science is clear; we can expect more, and greater intensity weather events that will devastate our local communities and our economy if we don’t take action now. The impacts of climate change will be widespread and particularly hard on our agricultural sector, which we have all seen firsthand during this pandemic is essential to keeping us well-fed and prosperous as a nation.
You might ask, what does a former governor from New Jersey know about agriculture and the impacts of climate change on farms in Iowa? Isn’t she just some coastal elite whose notion of a farm is conjured from movies and stodgy government reports?
A fair bit, and not really. I live on a small family farm that’s been in my family since 1933. I don’t grow enough to feed a nation, but we do grow enough vegetables and raise enough pigs, chickens, beef cattle, turkeys, goats and sheep to feed myself, my grandkids, and the occasional guest who gets treated to fresh eggs every time they come over for dinner.
It also might surprise you to learn that while we don’t produce as much as the farmers in Iowa, agriculture is the third-largest industry in New Jersey. New Jersey is home to more than 9,071 farms covering 715,057 acres of farmland and our state is the third-largest producer of cranberries, spinach and bell peppers. On a percentage basis, New Jersey has preserved more farmland than any state in the nation.
And as for those stodgy government reports, not only do I read them, but I also oversaw the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President George W. Bush, which used to work with the Department of Agriculture on the extensive impacts of climate change on our nation’s agricultural production and output.
What I saw then, and what I see now, is the urgent need for policy action by the next administration — to address climate change to protect our national food security and the future prosperity of our country by rapidly accelerating our shift to renewable energy, creating millions of new jobs and growing our economy.
Iowa’s farmers know all too well the economic suffering and pain caused by inaction and rapid intensification of weather events due to climate change. I watched in horror alongside millions of Americans as historic flooding across Iowa in 2019 caused more than $2 billion of damage, wiping out much of that years’ crop and leaving farmland in an unrecoverable position for years to come.
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These heartbreaking disasters are too often forgotten, left behind in the wake of yet more natural disasters with yet more Americans losing their homes, their economic livelihoods and even their lives. Even now, the West Coast is literally on fire while our friends along the Gulf have experience two hurricanes in two weeks dumping devastating amounts of rain.
Amid all this tragedy, there is a glimmer of hope, but only if the farmers of Iowa and Americans across the country decide to make a change this November by voting for Joe Biden.
While this administration has actively worked to deny science, looked backward to dirty sources of energy to power our future, loosened emissions standards and engaged in destructive trade wars that have crippled farmers in Iowa and across the country, Joe Biden has offered a plan to address climate change that puts our agricultural communities at the forefront. He has proposed sensible policies such as providing low-cost finance for the transition to new equipment and methods, funding research and development in precision agriculture and new crops, and establishing a new voluntary carbon farming market that rewards farmers for the carbon they sequester on their land.
As a Republican governor in a blue state, I had to work across the aisle to get big policy ideas passed. Joe Biden has proved that he can work with Republicans to get important environmental legislation passed that is good for the environment and good for the economy. He introduced the Global Climate Protection Act, the first climate change bill in the Senate and worked with President Reagan to get it passed, jump-starting research and development on a strategy to deal with global warming.
After four years of climate science denial and inaction from this administration, we need this kind of leadership to address one of the greatest challenges we’ve ever faced. Joe Biden doesn’t deny the science. He has the right track record, experience, and plan to help Iowa farmers address the impacts of climate change and to create a modern economy that puts America first.
Former New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman is the national chairwoman of Republicans and Independents for Biden.