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Howe Letter to the Editor 1/24/20

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To the Editor:

Next week’s political party caucuses are at core the opportunity for individuals to take a hand at forming up public policy directions.

Two policy topics seem particularly critical for attention in western Iowa this year.

Climate crisis and agriculture.

For Iowa to do its part to reduce greenhouse emissions to zero by 2050, and by nearly 50 percent yet this decade, it is “a must” that farming practices appropriate to the task be implemented.

USDA and state ag policies need to be quickly set in place to incentivize the farm sector to adopt “regenerative practices” such as no-till, long-term rotation, cover cropping, grass waterways and buffer strips, and to utilize other techniques for carbon sequestration.

Secondly, and equally important, Congress must be pushed to reform the USDA “farm program” to make it “countercyclical” — so there is incentive to trim commodity supplies (or hold them from market) until prices rise to cover farmers’ production costs and prevent insolvencies for diligent operators. This is elemental.

The current “farm program” of huge taxpayer-funded bailouts and crop insurance subsidization (adding inordinate expansion leverage for large operators) is not a reliable substitute for program mechanisms that assure farm operators parity from the marketplace — as soil and water resources are protected.

In fact, experiences of the past three decades have proven the so-called freedom-to-farm policy to be a disaster for the family-scale business model and in turn for rural America. It has incentivized farm consolidation, soil and water degradation, and resulted in a massive exodus of youth and vitality from the countryside.

We shouldn’t pass up the chance to weigh in on these policy issues that fundamentally affect the quality of rural life.

Jay Howe


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