Mike Naig climate background

JOHNSTON, Iowa — More science, less politics is what’s called for in talking about climate change, according to Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig.

“I think there’s no doubt that the climate changes, right? And so I think first of all we should ... try to do away with some of the politics that gets injected into this and really look at the facts, which is weather changes, the climate changes,” Naig said during taping of Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press.

Naig, who was appointed ag secretary in March 2018 when Bill Northey resigned to become an undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and was elected to a full four-year term later that year, also discussed livestock facilities and the spring crop-planting situations.

Farmers, he said, are on the front line of climate change. They have to deal with the change “from a standpoint of being resilient, right, in the face of increasingly larger rain events in the spring, which we have been seeing.”

There’s also slight warming as well, he said, adding, “by the way, these trend lines don’t continue forever, so we need to watch that data as well.”

More frequent and more intense rain events require farmers to make changes in their practices, said Naig, whose family farms in Palo Alto County in northern Iowa.

“We should be looking at things like cover crops in that half of the year when we don’t have a crop in the ground” to help prevent soil erosion, he said.

Naig said farmers need to consider their edge-of-field practice, such as buffer strips, to prevent erosion and runoff into waterways.

Farmers may worry that public-policy responses to climate change may result in a loss of freedom. However, he sees the potential for new opportunities for farmers.

“We think agriculture is actually a solution in terms of carbon sequestration and, when we look at renewable fuels and the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, these are all things that are really part and parcel of agriculture and we are a solution here,” Naig said.

“So there are the opportunities for farmers to increase renewable fuels, increase our bio-based chemicals and bio-based products, and those are all things that will benefit our farmers ultimately because of increased demand in our marketplace.”