April 13, 2012
I bought a cider press at an auction last week. I am really excited to make apple cider this fall. The last two years, I had a bumper crop of apples. That sounds like gallons and gallons of cider to me.
But now I am wondering if I should put the cider press back up for sale. You see, my apple trees were in full bloom before the end of March when temperatures hit 90 degrees.
Then it dipped to 27 degrees earlier this week. A handy chart I found warns that fruit loss begins at 28 degrees, and if it hits 25 degrees, a near total loss occurs.
A lot of people are talking about the strange weather this spring. Come to think of it, a lot of people were talking about the weather last spring too.
That is when unexpected rain flooded thousands of acres of farmland along the Missouri river, and forced the closure of a key bridge between Nebraska and Iowa just 10 miles from my office at the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Nebraska. The cropland stayed under water all summer. The bridge stayed closed too, forcing many residents of the the small river town to add 60 miles to their daily commute.
To be sure, a mix of factors contributes to every weather event, and early research indicates that climate change was only one factor contributing to the warm temperatures this spring.
Taken together, though, these experiences are painting a picture of the sort of challenges we can expect to face as climate change intensifies.
The risks to our communities, and to agriculture in particular, are significant. Last year some corn and bean farmers in our county lost their entire crop to flooding. The two farm families who operate our local wineries were probably up late worrying about their fruit trees and grape vines as the temperatures fell on Tuesday.
When farmers we know suffer a crop loss from extreme weather, the political objection to acting on climate change seems dimmer in comparison.
There is a great moral risk in continuing to treat climate change as a political issue. Our communities and our farms are on the line. Out of respect for future generations, it is far past time to set politics aside and take reasonable action.
That is why it is time for farmers and rural people of conscious to step forward and lead. We know some farmers are already concerned. And a recent poll of farmers in Iowa found that 68 percent believe climate change is real and 45 percent believe human activity is a contributing factor.
We are stepping up our efforts too. In CFRA’s newsletter in June, we will run a feature on climate change, the challenges facing our communities and actions we can take. In early summer, we will issue a major new report on carbon, climate and agriculture.
We know that it will not always be easy. But the issue demands our leadership. For we must not allow political division to stand in the way of protecting our children and grandchildren from the risk of a changing climate.
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