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IA-Sen: Climate Denier Joni Ernst (R) Is About To Face A Reckoning With Iowa Farmers

3 min read

Inside Climate News has been doing profiles on the major races this year and how climate change has been an issue in these races. One of the big races they’ve been following is the Iowa U.S. Senate race between U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R. IA) and businesswoman Theresa Greenfield (D. IA):

The state has been battered by a succession of droughts, floods and heatwaves in recent years. Then in August, a freakish series of hurricane-force “derecho” storms swept across the central part of the state, decimating 10 million acres of crops, or about 40 percent of the state's output.

The state's farmers—largely conservative and resistant to the science of climate change—have had to accept that something is, indeed, happening.

Ernst, who has repeatedly said she doesn't believe that human-caused emissions are fueling a warming atmosphere, does not connect that erratic, destructive weather to climate change.  

Greenfield believes climate change is the driving force behind recent flooding, and says, “We can't afford to have Senators who question and deny the science,” according to her campaign website.

Civil Eats confirms that climate change is hurting Iowa’s farming industry:

Like many of Iowa’s aging farmers, (Jerry) Engelson is worried about the future of farming. He recognizes that the climate is shifting, and he’s planted cover crops and uses a minimum amount of tillage to prevent soil erosion. He’s open to changes, but can’t just start diversifying his crops or altering the terrain of his farm when margins are already so tight.

“We’re raising corn now that’s below the cost of production,” said Engelson. “I really don’t know why we’re doing it.”

Like many other states, Iowa is in the midst of a climate breakdown. And farmers like Engelson are at the bleeding edge of the crisis. But they’re also locked in a system that makes it easier to rely on crop insurance payouts after disasters than it does to change their practices. Meanwhile, some agribusiness interests are lobbying for the status quo while denying the existence of man-made climate change.

Biofuels were already a big issue between Greenfield and Ernst:

The two are talking about a federal program, known as the Renewable Fuel Standard, that requires oil companies to blend billions of gallons of biofuels into the nation’s fuel supply. These biofuels are made from crops like corn and soybeans. Oil companies are allowed to request waivers if complying with the RFS would create financial hardship. The Trump administration has doled out dozens of them, including to some of the world’s largest oil companies. The refinery waivers have cost biofuel producers billions of gallons in lost demand.

Greenfield has criticized Sen. Ernst for confirming Andrew Wheeler, who has approved dozens of these waivers, as EPA Administrator. She also has called on Ernst to demand Wheeler’s resignation. Ernst says she will call for him to step down if he breaks the law.

“[Wheeler] is following the letter of the law,” Sen. Ernst told reporters on a conference call last month. “But he’s really walking a tightrope with the spirit of the law.”

It’s bad enough Ernst might be facing a reckoning from Iowa farmers, she’s already facing scrutiny from Iowa doctors:

Condemnation from across the Iowa medical community has been relentless this week in the wake of Sen. Joni Ernst’s suggestion hospitals are inflating the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths for financial gain.

“These health care providers and others are reimbursed at a higher rate if COVID is tied to it, so what do you think they’re doing?” Ernst said Monday at an event in Black Hawk County.

The comments have angered Iowans regardless of their party affiliation during a time in American politics when few issues are capable of crossing partisan lines. Even the Iowa Medical Society called Ernst’s remarks “incredibly disappointing” and condemned the Republican senator for spreading “mistruths and distrust.”

Greenfield has the support of major environmental groups including the League of Conservation Voters and NextGen America.

Let’s keep up the momentum to flip Iowa Blue. Click below to donate and get involved with Greenfield, Biden and their fellow Iowa Democrats campaigns:

Joe Biden


Theresa Greenfield

Abby Finkenauer

Cindy Axne

Rita Hart

JD Scholten

Iowa Democratic Party

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