June 20, 2024

Biden: Ag is key to beating climate change

Former VP talks big picture opportunities for farming, rural America

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Agriculture is going to be the key to America beating climate change, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told Newton Daily News.

The Democratic presidential candidate is certain farmers in Iowa and across the country can be provided opportunities to better the environment and be the first in the world to reach net-zero emissions, thereby lessening the effects of climate change and global warming.

How can this be done?

By paying farmers for planting crops that absorb carbon from the air, Biden said. The technology to convert the bad into good, so to speak, is already available; there is machinery that can extract methane — a strong greenhouse gas in the Earth’s atmosphere — from waste and convert it into energy.

“We have to provide farmers better opportunities and options — options to be able to use their land to make a lot more money than they make now,” Biden said before visiting with constituents Thursday afternoon at Legacy Plaza in Newton, a mere four days before caucuses.

From what he has gathered being in Iowa for the past several months, Biden says farmers don’t think there is such a thing as a perfect dream scenario. But there may be a way to fundamentally change their circumstances, he added, so long as they are given a chance.

Biden has laid out a strategy for rural America, which largely affects farmers and strengthening the agricultural sector. Allowing farmers greater opportunities to make money from their land and contribute to “a real national crisis of climate change” is a strong focal point in the plan; as is the funding.

“But we need to preserve the ability for those farmers who are in trouble to (have) access to low-interest loans to be able to keep themselves from being in a (bad) position,” Biden said, noting borrowing limits need to be raised to help new, younger farmers to stay in the game.

Biden’s rural plan directly supports beginner farmers. Despite lackluster markets and the fallout from a trade war with China, the Democratic candidate said it is worth it to make sure family farms stick around, as opposed to losing land to corporate agriculture.

However, the struggles farmers faced the past few years have been “unnecessary,” Biden said.

“We didn’t have to be here. The farmers have taken a beating since Trump has become president because of this trade war he initiated with China. It’s not only hurt farmers it’s hurt small manufacturers and big (manufacturers),” he added.

As the United States’ relationship with China seems to mend, and trade deals agreed upon, Biden questioned if even that should be considered a victory if farmers are “partially back to where they were before the trade war started.”

If the deal works and China buys what it says it will buy, then American farmers are back to where they started, Biden said. The former senator from Delaware added the deal is not a guarantee that China will buy. Plus, the damage has already been done, and the anxiety caused “has been enormous.”

“It’s been a disaster, and it’s also significantly increased the deficit,” he said. “There was no choice but to try to help bail out the farmers who were screwed by his trade deal. We’ve spent more money on that than we did bailing out General Motors.”

Holding China accountable, Biden suggested, should not have done alone.

“You go it with the rest of the world on our side instead of what Trump has done,” he said.

The result? A reduction in farms. The American Farm Bureau reported higher farm bankruptcies in 2019. Income for farmers may have been high, but almost 40 percent of it was related to trade assistance, disaster assistance, the farm bill and insurance indemnities. Farm debt, on the other end, his projected high.

Losing a farm, Biden said, is something that doesn’t get talked about enough. The pain, the suffering, the sense losing of connection when a farm is lost is not like losingjob, he said. Instead, it’s like losing part of a farmer’s identity.

Handouts and bailouts may initially help farmers, but long lasting change of some kind may be needed for the agricultural sector to thrive again.

Biden said, “I’ve never known a farmer who wants anything other than an opportunity. I’ve never met a farmer who wants a handout. They want to be part of all the solutions. So I think they’re beginning to see what we’ve been talking about.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com