In a White House Rose Garden ceremony June 1, President Donald J. Trump announced he would pull the U.S. from the Paris treaty on global climate change.
As he colourfully noted, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”
True, but he was elected to represent Paris, IL; Paris, KY; Paris, ID; Paris, AR; Paris, ME; Paris, MI; Paris, IA and Paris, IN. What’s more, if national polling holds true in these lesser cities of light, then two-thirds of these Parisians see climate change as a global, national, community, and personal threat.
Still, the president acted. How will U.S. and world agriculture react?
The always-sunny Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue endorsed the president’s move. “Floods, droughts, and natural disasters are a fact of life for farmers, ranchers, and foresters,” ironically noted the secretary as if acknowledging the reality climate scientists say is ahead of us.
But, hey, added Perdue, farmers and ranchers “have persevered in the past and they will adapt in the future — with the assistance of the scientists and experts at USDA.”
There are two gaping holes in Perdue’s hopeful net. First, not all farmers and ranchers “persevered” in previous climate calamities. In fact, many farm families and rural communities still carry the searing scars of the dirty, hungry dust bowl days.
Mankind may not have been the root cause of these disasters but it did add to it and our failure to not even plan for their possibility cost many thousands their lives and livelihoods.
Today, another generation of farm and ranch leaders again must decide if Mother Nature is a partner or a hired hand. As the Trump White House sees it, it’s the latter. Wise farmers and ranchers everywhere know, however, it’s the former.
Another blind spot in Perdue’s endorsement of Trump’s climate policy is his claim the USDA will help prepare farmers. President Trump’s budget proposal cuts USDA’s Agricultural Research Service funding by roughly 32 per cent. If adopted, USDA would have to close 17 of its 90 or so research centres.
Which centres would close? No one can say, but if the boss believes climate change isn’t a serious threat, few scientists at USDA will do climate change research.
Not researching climate change does not mean it won’t impact farmers and ranchers.
In its 2015 report Heat in the Heartland: Climate Change and the Economic Risk in the Midwest, an all-star group of political, business, and academic leaders warned that “Without action, climate change will lock in extreme temperature increases across the Midwest,” where, they noted, 65 per cent of all corn and soybeans are grown, one-third of U.S. manufacturing is located, and where one in five Americans live.
And it’s going to happen in a hurry. “Over the next five to 25 years, without significant adaptation by farmers, some counties in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana will likely see average commodity crop losses up to 18 to 24 per cent due to extreme heat each year,” the report relates.
The point is as simple as it is apparent. Climate change is happening and will continue to happen.
Ignoring it goes against what farmers and ranchers instinctively do best every day: solve problems, not make ’em worse.
The Farm and Food File is published weekly through the U.S. and Canada. www.farmandfoodfile.com.