The winner of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism’s John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism was announced this week. InsideClimate News beat out the New York Times and ProPublica to take the top spot for their series “Harvesting Peril: Extreme Weather and Climate Change on the American Farm.”
“Harvesting Peril describes how the American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation’s largest farm lobby, has worked to undermine climate science and derail climate policy, putting at risk the very farmers it represents,” writes InsideClimate staff in their press release about the award.
We thought this recognition was a great opportunity to revisit this excellent four-part series, whose first installment was published in October of 2018. See below for a summary of the series, as well as a links to the full stories.
- “How the Farm Bureau’s Climate Agenda is Failing Its Farmers;” By Georgina Gustin, Neela Banerjee, and John H. Cushman, Jr.; Date published: October 24, 2018.
In this first piece in the “Harvesting Peril” series, InsideClimate lays the groundwork for the whole series.
The American Farm Bureau, they write, is “among the most potent political forces” in the country. The Bureau has successfully and “skillfully” crafted the iconic American farmer “into and enduring influence machine.” They are also, “conservative to the core,” echoing many of the priorities and politics of the Trump administration. “Nowhere,” write the authors, “do their agendas align more completely—and with more profound consequences—than on the challenge of climate change.” (See an infographic on the Bureau’s decades-long tradition of resisting climate policy here).
You will have to read the full piece to really understand how the Farm Bureau has shaped U.S. ag – and we hope that you do- but we also provide a summary of the key points here. Each of the three other pieces, listed below, take a deeper dive into these issues.
The key points are that 1) action on climate change is NOT a priority for the Bureau. And, 2) the main tool in their toolkit has been, and remains, insurance subsidies for farmers to provide both “direct government compensation for farmers who agree to plant in ways that keep carbon in the soil” and “a safety net to protect farmers from financial losses, including from drought, flood and other climate impacts. The problem is that crop insurance policies don’t encourage smart farming, but actually the opposite. They provide incentives for planting “the big four crops – corn, soy, wheat and cotton” and for farming on poor land, and for larger farms that grow fewer crops. Many of the solutions for climate change go against this powerful status-quo.
3) The Farm Bureau’s decades-long buddy system with fossil fuel interests and their tactic of “sowing confusion” on climate change science, coupled with their huge sphere of influence, has led us to the current reality where “millions of acres of American farm country are under the stewardship of farmers who doubt that man-made climate change is real, don’t buy into climate-friendly farming or are financially locked into the status quo.” So, while the broader U.S. economy/society is reigning in greenhouse gas emissions, “global warming pollution from its farms has crept upward.”
The next three installments of “Harvesting Peril” take a closer look at the above key points:
- “The Farm Bureau: Big Oil’s Unnoticed Ally Fighting Climate Science and Policy;” By Neela Banerjee, Geogina Gustin, and John H. Cushman Jr.; Date published: December 21, 2018.
- “U.S. Taxpayers on the Hook for Insuring Farmers Against Growing Climate Risks,” By Geogina Gustin; Date published: December 31, 2018.
- “Industrial Agriculture, an Extraction Industry Like Fossil Fuels, a Growing Driver of Climate Change;” By Georgina Gustin; Date published: January 25, 2019.
The graphics the InsideClimate team put together to accompany this series are worth checking out, like this series of infographics on the key climate change issues in agriculture, such as nitrogen runoff, and emissions of greenhouse gasses like nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. These informative graphics are sprinkled throughout the pieces, and some are also highlighted on the main series page.
InsideClimate’s in-depth, and award winning, reporting paints quite a picture of the mess we are in here in the states when it comes to agriculture and climate change. See our coverage for more ammunition in this intense battle over the future of farming.
InsideClimate News, “ICN’s Harvesting Peril Wins Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism,” Date published: July 24, 2019; Date accessed: July 25, 2019.