Content ID

45593

Landlords and Operators Face Weather Extremes

Drake University’s Agricultural Law Center and Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture are looking for ways to help farmers and landowners adapt to weather extremes that challenge soil and water conservation.

A poll published in The New York Times last week showed a majority of Americans of different political beliefs favor some type of action to combat climate change. It’s bigger among Democrats (91%) than Republicans (51%); 78% of independents favor climate change action.

On the farm, changing climate has brought changing, more extreme weather. It affects nearly all aspects of crop production, from increasing fungal diseases and pests to drought and flooding, to delayed planting and harvest.

Drake University is focusing on how landlords and renters can work together more effectively to counter those changes.

“Climate change is a critical issue with special implications for American agriculture and landowners as extreme weather events become more frequent,” says Neil Hamilton, director of the Agricultural Law Center and professor of law at Drake University.   “Drake's research reveals important opportunities to engage farmers and landowners in implementing practices to respond to climate change; now the challenge is developing public policies to make that a reality.”

The research indicates the agriculture community in Iowa has been slow to embrace the evidence that human activity is causing climate change, said a press release from Drake University.  However, the research identifies the need for farmers and land owners to work together to share the benefits and costs of practices that in the short run can make Iowa farmland more resilient to extreme weather.  In the long run, the Drake researchers believe, farmers and landowners working more closely together can implement practices that can actually harvest carbon on Iowa farms essentially going beyond reducing greenhouse gas emissions to actually reducing CO2 in the atmosphere.

In in-depth interviews with farmers, nonoperator landowners, and farm managers, Ag Law Center researchers Matt Russell and Andrew Ewing found a wide variety of views about extreme weather, climate, and ways to manage farms to adapt  to those changes.

“Interviewees generally expressed a high level of responsibility for managing the conservation on the land they owned or farmed. In other words, they believed they were doing a good job. Interestingly, they showed some skepticism about the accompanying party to the lease, doubting whether they would be able to appreciate or understand how they themselves were caring for the land,” Russell and Ewing learned.

The researchers don’t reveal the identities of those they interviewed and seemed to get candid comments.

One farmer operating 2,000 acres, including 1,500 rented, was slightly more concerned about the weather but thought recent patterns will swing the other way eventually, adding: “I don’t know if it’s really any worse, or if we just have more information to show the extremes.” 

Another farmer with 320 acres, that includes some organic crops, was worried that we’re entering a 35-year cycle of less stable weather coupled with climate change. “It’s gonna get really wild, I think,” the farmer said.

Resources for landowners and the research reports can be found at Drake’s Sustainable Agricultural Land Tenure Initiative website.

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