Is it climate change, weather weirding or land use impact?

Climate change politics continue to divide

Sen. Sherrod Brown, OFBF
“The people who continue to deny climate change should be embarrassed,” U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown told the Ohio Farm Bureau delegation last week in D.C.

By Susan Crowell /

WASHINGTON — If you want to see the two sides of the climate change argument, look no further than the Ohio’s two U.S. senators.

Although he didn’t endorse the Green New Deal, which seeks to eliminate America’s net carbon emissions within a decade, Democrat Sherrod Brown thinks climate change is real.

“The people who continue to deny climate change should be embarrassed,” Brown told reporters accompanying the Ohio Farm Bureau county presidents on their annual legislative fly-in March 12-14.

“I just don’t think there are two sides to the issue of climate change,” Brown said. “The facts are facts, and climate change is real.”

“And it’s not really a political thing,” he added. “It’s a fact thing.”

But Ohio’s other senator, Republican Rob Portman, disagrees with the premise that only human activity is to blame.

”The science is uncertain on it,” Portman told the Ohio Farm Bureau delegation March 14. “Let’s just be honest. Do we have a role to play, yes, I think we do, but you can’t say that it’s just people.”

Sen. Rob Portman, climate change
Sen. Rob Portman calls for a more middle-of-the-road response to climate change, calling the Green New Deal ‘outlandish.’

And Portman scoffed at the new Green New Deal (link opens .pdf) proffered by Democrats earlier this year. The nonbinding resolution goes into great detail about the harms of climate change and what the U.S. government should do about it.

“It’s so outlandish,” Portman said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Instead, Portman advocated finding a middle ground on climate change, saying there are “absolutely things we can do to reduce emissions,” but “we should do it in a way that’s pro growth, pro jobs, pro farmer. It doesn’t have to be either/or.”

The senator supports legislation that would give power companies incentives to capture carbon and sequester it, and also develop a carbon market. He also championed newer nuclear power plants.

“We should be able to use technology and innovation better.”

Need common sense

Danielle Burch, Columbiana County Farm Bureau president, agreed with Portman.

“I think we need to take a common sense approach to what we’re asking of farmers,” she added, and not push “overzealous runoff tracking.”

“We’ve seen it, where everybody does everything right, and then a 5-inch rain comes through, and everything goes wrong.”

“Yes, we have new weather patterns. Yes, something has changed, but we need to find a way to work within that environment to continue to produce what we produce.”

Craig Pohlman, Farm Bureau president from Van Wert County, calls it “weather weirding,” instead of climate change.

“We feel rain events are larger and more frequent. We can’t deny that,” said Pohlman, who operates a cash grain farm in Van Wert and Allen counties.

“We’re trying to learn, but the powers that be want tomorrow to be fixed today, and that’s not gonna happen,” he said, adding that the prospect of increased regulations on agriculture related to climate change are “scary.”

Other factors

The Ohio Farm Bureau group also heard from Rickey (R.D.) James, a Missouri farmer and agribusinessman, who joined the Trump administration as the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, the civilian position in charge of the Army Corps of Engineers.

James got the farmers’ attention with his assessment: “Any particular river, lake or reservoir gets more water faster than it did in 1980.”

R.D. James, assistant secretary to the Army civil works, Army Corps of Engineers
Missouri farmer and agribusinessman R.D. James, is now the top civilian overseeing the Army Corps of Engineers.

There are a lot of reasons for that that have nothing to do with climate change, he said. And that’s because, nationwide, there’s more concrete and land development than in 1980; there’s pasture taken out of grass and put into row crops; there’s been timber taken off, as well as other land use practices on farms and in cities, that increase stormwater flow.

“Water gets to water bodies so fast that it overwhelms them,” James said. “I’m not sure we’re getting bigger storms, maybe we are, but consider how fast the water is coming into our reservoirs and rivers.

“That’s why we see rivers like the Mississippi River rising 8 foot a night rather than 3 foot like it used to.”

Farm Bureau policy

In its policy on the environment, the Ohio Farm Bureau asks that “environmental regulations be scientifically sound; based on credible data; practical, realistic and economically feasible.

The American Farm Bureau Federation policy on climate change opposes various policies, including a mandatory cap-and-trade provision, mandatory reporting of any greenhouse gas emissions by an agricultural entity, or any attempt to regulate methane emissions from livestock.



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