Farmers speak about climate change's impact on ag
By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- Several Idaho farmers told Boise residents July 27 that extreme weather and drought are negatively impacting Idaho agriculture and asked them to support efforts to combat climate change.
They joined elected officials and other food industry representatives during a presentation at the Boise Farmers Market designed to raise awareness of climate change and support efforts to limit carbon emissions.
Sixth-generation farmer Chance Requa of Twin Falls told the dozens of people gathered for the hour-long event that unpredictable weather in recent years has caused him to drop a few crops, including peas.
"We had to cut peas out of our crop altogether just because the weather's too unpredictable for them," he said. "The colder springs and then the really hot summers have made those really hard to grow."
He said the extreme heat in Idaho the past few summers has also caused a significant reduction in his dry bean yields and unpredictable weather patterns have made farming a challenge in recent years.
"If we don't all get smarter about how we deal with carbon, then it's only going to get harder," he said.
Janie Burns, who owns Meadowlark Farms in Nampa, said climate change is subtle, "but it's happening. I notice it. Nobody in our community deals with the weather more than farmers. We are always checking the forecast."
She said a late freeze this spring damaged the state's fruit crop and a string of heat waves in the Treasure Valley this summer "are messing with plant growth. The bottom line is crops are at risk because of climate change."
Burns and other speakers urged people to help battle climate change by supporting local farmers, which they said would cut down on the industry's carbon footprint by reducing transportation.
They also asked them to support President Obama's initiatives to limit carbon emissions, which include a recent proposal to trim carbon emissions at new and existing power plants.
"We can no longer delay. We just take action now," said Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, a member of the Idaho Senate's agricultural affairs committee.
The event was billed as, "Idaho food producers speaking out in support of efforts to combat climate change," but other farm industry leaders said the event didn't represent mainstream agriculture's stance on the issue.
"I don't think they represent the general feeling of Idaho food producers," said Idaho Farm Bureau Federation spokesman John Thompson.
Thompson said there is not conclusive evidence proving that power plants cause the climate to change. "I don't know why they just focus on power plants," he said.
The U.S. can trim carbon emissions all it wants, but if other countries don't, it will only cause American businesses, including those in agriculture, to move to other nations, said Milk Producers of Idaho Executive Director Brent Olmstead.
"Not everyone in agriculture agrees with this group's stand on the issue," he said.