News

Many US Farmers Skeptical About Climate Change

As climate negotiators meet in Copenhagen, Denmark, many scientists say that farmers around the world will have to adjust to more extreme temperatures, droughts and floods as a result of global warming. But in the United States, the nation's largest farmers' organization, the American Farm Bureau Federation, opposes any strong actions to counter climate change, either in Copenhagen or in the U.S. Congress.

Gwen Pitt
Gwen Pitt

Multimedia

On a sunny afternoon in the southern U.S. state of North Carolina, Gwen Pitt is supervising the cotton harvest. As a large machine mashes the cotton into a solid brick a bit smaller than a train car, Pitt says her crop is destined for one of the world's most popular fashion items.

"We have found out that most of our cotton here in eastern North Carolina goes to make jeans," she says.

She says it takes a lot of fuel to grow and harvest all that cotton. The picking machine alone guzzles down nearly 400 liters of fuel per day. And while they're harvesting cotton in this field, they're planting wheat in fields nearby.

Cotton ready for harvest
Cotton ready for harvest

"Tractors are always running," she says. "So we're always burning fuel."

Opponents to Copenhagen deal fear higher expenses

As climate negotiators meet in Copenhagen, Denmark, many scientists say that farmers around the world will have to adjust to more extreme temperatures, droughts and floods as a result of global warming. But in the United States, the nation's largest farmers' organization, the American Farm Bureau Federation, opposes any strong actions to counter climate change, either in Copenhagen or in the U.S. Congress.

Pitt and many other U.S. farmers are concerned that measures to address climate change may make fuel more expensive. Those proposals seek to lower emissions of greenhouse gases by raising the cost of gasoline, coal, natural gas and other fossil fuels. And since natural gas is a major ingredient in fertilizer, the cost of this essential farm supply could go up, too.

The Farm Bureau is lobbying Congress to reject a pending climate change bill. Bob Stallman, president of the bureau, says the extra costs will make it harder for farmers to stay in business.

"Our margins are really thin, in terms of our bottom line, and any additional costs have to be absorbed by the farmer because we can't pass on those costs to consumers directly," he says.   

Some climate skeptics question cause of warming

Costs aside, you'll find a lot of basic skepticism at the Farm Bureau and among farmers like Gwen Pitt that human pollution is responsible for climate change. 

Harvested cotton
Harvested cotton

Pitt says, "My feeling on climate change is, I don't know that what we do as Americans or as people is what's causing most of what's happening. I think nature has its own course."

But other farmers disagree. The National Farmers Union, a smaller farmers' group, supports action on climate change. President Roger Johnson says the science is convincing. And he doesn't think a climate change bill would hurt farmers nearly as much as climate change will, through droughts, floods and other extreme weather.

"All these different events are going to harm production. We know that," he says. "You want to talk about a cost increase? You put the whole crop in and you harvest nothing? I mean, I've seen that. I've been through that on my farm. The experts say you will see that with much increased frequency over time."

By some calculations farmers face only minor cost hikes

Johnson contends that the legislation Congress is considering would impose miniscule costs on farmers. He points to analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that calculates the proposed law would reduce farmers' incomes by about 1 percent in the short term, and about seven percent over coming decades.

"I farmed most of my life," he says, "and I can point to any number of weeks when I saw more than a seven percent swing in my costs. For anyone who says a 1 percent increase or a seven percent increase 25 years from now is going to be the end of agriculture, I mean, it just defies the real world."

The USDA analysis also concludes that the climate bill now before Congress gives farmers opportunities to more than offset their financial losses, although not all farmers may be able to take advantage of them.

Johnson concludes that farmers can handle the costs of capping greenhouse gases, especially because the costs of doing nothing could be far worse.
 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs