The past few years have not been easy for farm families in Iowa or across the country — from trade disruptions and changing regulations to the more recent economic downturn associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of all that, our lives and livelihoods are more directly impacted by changes in our climate perhaps than any other industry.
That is why Iowa’s farmers and rural communities should be a part of the solution. Environmentally sustainable practices like cover crops, minimum tillage, precision farming and livestock integration hold the promise of not only protecting our natural resources, but also supporting a more diverse, more connected, and more vibrant agricultural industry. Fortunately, it appears some in Washington, D.C., are beginning to turn their attention to this important issue.
The Growing Climate Solutions Act — recently introduced in the Senate with rare but promising bipartisan support — represents an important step forward for environmentally responsible agriculture. This bill would help farmers take advantage of existing carbon credits by directing the USDA to streamline the entire process, thereby incentivizing farmers to integrate new techniques that capture carbon during the agricultural process.
The Growing Climate Solutions Act would help increase carbon sequestration by American farmers — which many environmental experts see as key to addressing climate change — while also providing farmers with additional support during these tumultuous times. Carbon sequestration techniques would help prevent carbon from going into the atmosphere, while also increasing the health of the soil and protecting the local environment.
Iowans take great pride in promoting sustainable practices — particularly when we can implement them on our own accord with the support of our elected leaders rather than through government-mandated regulation. We need to continue pushing the limits of sustainability — 40% of our state’s corn yield goes into the production of renewable fuels, and Iowa is a leader nationally when it comes to wind energy — which is something Senator Chuck Grassley worked tirelessly to promote while establishing the first wind energy production tax credit. Today, we rank second in the nation for wind capacity and, as of last year, have joined Kansas as the only states to have wind power become the top source of our electricity.
Sadly, however, like agriculture, clean energy jobs have taken a significant hit from the economic downturn Since March, Iowa has lost more than 5,000 clean energy jobs, mirroring a trend seen nationwide as the U.S. economy has shed more than 620,000 jobs in the clean energy sector — which, at the end of 2019 supported roughly 3.3 million jobs nationally.
In the short-term, our elected officials in Washington — including Sen. Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) — should work to support solutions like the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which will help protect not only my family’s farm but countless others like ours across the country. Congress must also work to put all of Iowa’s clean energy workers back on the job so we can continue to be national leaders in sustainability and environmental stewardship.
Scott Henry is a fourth-generation farmer and helps lead his family’s diverse Story County, Iowa, farm operation, Longview Farms.