Congressional candidate Austin Frerick charged today that "extensive investments" in the fossil fuel extraction sector may explain why the Iowa Farm Bureau fails to acknowledge the reality of climate change, despite the well-established impacts of warming temperatures, severe weather events, and increased humidity on Iowa farmers.
The Farm Bureau's lobbying against proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions hasn't been as noticeable as its steps to block water quality standards and meaningful state-led or collaborative efforts to reduce soil loss and water pollution from conventional farming. But the organization has also opposed federal and state policies aimed at reducing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. The American Farm Bureau Federation and its state affiliates lobbied to weaken the 2009 American Clean Energy and Security Act before a U.S. House vote and helped kill that "cap and trade" proposal in the U.S. Senate. The Farm Bureau's representative on the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council voted against some recommendations aimed at reducing emissions from the agricultural sector (see pages 103 to 110 of the final report released in December 2008).
In a statement enclosed in full below, Frerick argued that the century-old organization would "be advocating for steps to fight climate change" if it were true to its stated mission of standing for Iowa farmers and rural communities. Instead, the Farm Bureau's stance tracks with major oil companies in which its for-profit insurance arm has invested.
One of six Democrats seeking the nomination in Iowa's third Congressional district, Frerick has focused his message on issues affecting the agricultural sector, particularly economic concentration. Last month he linked Iowa Farm Bureau investments in agribusiness giants to the organization's failure to oppose consolidation in the hybrid seed market, which raises production costs for grain farmers.
February 26 news release:
FRERICK CAMPAIGN UNVEILS IOWA FARM BUREAU’S CLIMATE CHANGE CONFLICT OF INTEREST
IOWA FARM BUREAU OWN MILLIONS OF EXXON MOBIL AND SHELL OIL WHILE DENYING CLIMATE CHANGE EXISTS, CO2 HARMFUL TO THE PLANET
“IT’S JUST ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF THE IOWA FARM BUREAU PUTTING ITS INVESTMENTS AND GREED AHEAD OF FAMILY FARMERS IN IOWA,” FRERICK SAYS
WINTERSET - Austin Frerick, a Democrat running for Congress against David Young in Iowa’s 3rd District, has continued to dig into financial documents on the stock holdings of the Iowa Farm Bureau for-profit arm. The documents reveal significant conflicts of interest for the Iowa Farm Bureau and raise questions about whether the Iowa Farm Bureau’s public denials over the existence of climate change and its opposition to classifying carbon dioxide as a pollutant as recently is 2015 is influenced by its extensive investments in Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell.
The Iowa Farm Bureau’s 2015 platform asserted, “Man’s effect on climate change is uncertain, and science does not give clear direction for any federal or state policy option.” The 2018 platform has no mention of climate change.
“The Iowa Farm Bureau claims to have a grassroots policy development process, but it appears to be just a rubber stamp,” said Frerick. “There is nothing to bind the state party to enact what the county parties say.”
“Hot summers lead to smaller yields of corn and potentially even soybeans,” Frerick says, citing a 2016 report from the Environmental Protection Agency. “If current environmental projections don’t get any grimmer, over the half century, Iowa will have nearly a month of days with highs above 95°F.”
An Iowa State researcher also noted that climate change will increase severe rain storms, which would exacerbate problems of nutrient-related water-quality issues. “Iowa’s waterways are already among the most polluted in the nation,” said Frerick. “Ignoring the threats of climate change will only worsen this issue.”
“The Iowa Farm Bureau is acting like a group of 21st century’s Flat Earthers,” Frerick says. “If the Farm Bureau really represents farmers, they’d be advocating for steps to fight climate change, because a changing climate is not good for Iowa farmers. Either the Iowa Farm Bureau has buried their heads in sand so deep that they’re deliberately ignorant of the consequences of unmitigated climate change on Iowa and Iowa farmers or they’re so beholden to Big Oil that they’re willing to put the livelihoods of thousands of farmers at risk to continue paying out millions in dividends to their board of directors.”
“It’s just another example of the Iowa Farm Bureau putting its investments and greed ahead of family farmers and our environment in Iowa,” Frerick says. The Iowa Farm Bureau still has not opposed the Monsanto-Bayer merger nor disinvested its millions of investments in Monsanto.
The Iowa Farm Bureau, created in 1918 to advocate for Iowa’s farmers and rural communities, now receives most of its revenue from its for-profit insurance arm, the FBL Financial Group. The FBL Financial Group is a private business entity that controls $9.6 billion in assets, generating close to $726 million in income in 2016. That $9.6 billion in assets includes many millions of dollars of investments in large fossil fuel polluters like Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell.
I honestly wonder sometimes if the IFB even cares if future Iowans will be able to farm here. We are currently losing topsoil twenty times as fast as it's being replaced, and I've heard at least one soil expert predicting that Iowa will be experiencing definite yield reductions on some soil types within three decades. And that's just from the impacts of current soil erosion, without even adding the other impacts of climate change.
I understand why Austin Frerick feels the need to walk a tricky path that blames the IFB for its backward policies without blaming Iowa farmers. But as a group, Iowa's conventional farmers are not good at acting in their own long-term best interests, and there is plenty of evidence. For one example, ask anyone who is part of the ongoing struggle to persuade farmers to take a few basic steps to slow down weed resistance to herbicides. It's not surprising that climate change is largely ignored or denied.