American farmers are on the front lines of climate change, wracked by crop-killing floods and rising temperatures. Yet the U.S. Department of Agriculture — which is involved in almost every other aspect of farmers' livelihood — spends just 0.3% of its budget helping them adapt to climate change.
And even that little help is being hampered by the Trump administration's hostility toward the entire topic, according to Politico. If even rural America, epicenter of President Donald Trump's base, can't count on the administration to put climate facts ahead of bullheaded ideology, who can?
The facts of climate change today aren't seriously debatable outside the echo chamber of right-wing media. Average global temperatures these days routinely reach levels never seen in recorded history, with obvious effects like melting sea ice, floods, droughts, fires and unstable weather patterns that spawn increasingly destructive hurricanes. These climate trends coincide with industrialization, which has increased greenhouse gases that trap heat in Earth's atmosphere. To dispute this is like disputing gravity.
Yet Trump has long disputed it, and his administration now reflects this willfully blind rejection of science. Driven by fealty to the fossil-fuel industry and the most environmentally obstinate elements of his base, Trump has pulled the U.S. out of international efforts to mitigate climate damage, loosened environmental regulations beyond what even much of the business world wants, and has created an atmosphere in which government scientists keep their mouths shut to avoid retribution for spreading facts.
Farmers especially are feeling the effects of climate change, most recently in massive flooding throughout the Midwest. There are actions that would help, such as reducing tillage to improve the soil's reaction to low or high moisture conditions and planting cover crops to counter soil erosion. The Department of Agriculture could use economic incentives, education and other levers to encourage those kinds of practices. But agriculture officials would first have to take climate change seriously — a dangerous proposition in Trump's government.
According to 2017 emails uncovered by The Guardian, one career agriculture official recommended that staff avoid use of the words "climate change," and refer to it instead by euphemisms like "weather extremes." As Politico reported, administrators of the one very limited Department of Agriculture program dedicated to addressing climate change are so cowed by the White House's attitude that they've tried to make the program all but invisible in an effort to keep it alive.
"Right now we're dancing around the administration's reluctance to call [climate change] what it is," one farmer told Politico. That reluctance could ultimately affect not just the nation's farmers but its very food supply. Trump's scandals are plenty, but there may be no more urgent reason than this one for the voters to end this reign of environmental ignorance next year.
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