As Caucuses Approach, Iowa Dems Focused On Climate Change

Hornick, Iowa flooded last spring and now has money to build storm protection.  Photo: Katie Peikes, Iowa Public Radio

The Hill reported yesterday, citing polling data and interviews with state Democratic leaders, that climate change has been widely discussed throughout the state by all the candidates in the run-up to the caucuses next week — it is a top tier issue because last year’s historic flooding has taken an estimated $2 billion toll on the state’s farmers and communities and because of the Trump Administration’s policies on biofuels.  It may also be top of mind because while the state has spent $15 million of flood recovery projects, according to Iowa Public Radio, there are 30 more projects costing a total of $130 million that are awaiting funding and the Republican Governor is seeking legislative approval for only $20 million more.

Why This Matters:  An overwhelming majority Iowans are convinced that climate change is real and they consider it one of the top issues facing our country — second only to health care.  And that is more than enough to make it something that all the candidates talk about on the trail.  This is a new trend — the Hill reported that the head of the Iowa Farm Union explained that in the past candidates were afraid to “engage farmers on this for fear of a backlash.”  Not any more.  Farmers, as The Hill explains, increasingly see climate change as negatively impacting their livelihoods and way of life and they want the candidates to address it and they want to be part of the solution.  This is huge progress.  We will need to build upon their desire for climate solutions to create the political will to address the climate crisis.

Climate Politics in Iowa

Biofuels is also a hot button issue with farmers because, as Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, which represents ethanol producers explained to The Hill, “Discontent with some Trump administration action as it relates to farming has opened up the door for them to come and talk to farmers. Linking farms and rural prosperity to a low-carbon future with climate change is at the center of what I’ve seen.”  As we have reported, the Trump Administration has been on the defensive because they gave many ethanol waivers that allow refineries relief from a law requiring them to blend ethanol into their products.  All the Democratic candidates have reportedly jumped on this opening to appeal to farmers on a low carbon future.

A Flood of Flood Projects

After the record and devastating floods, the state enacted a flood recovery fund of $15 million for flood recovery and mitigation projects and Iowa’s Flood Mitigation Board approved six projects: A berm, a drainage replacement, a levee and buyouts for three communities.  But of that money, Iowa Public Radio reports that Iowa’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has pushed only a little more than $1.1 million of the fund out to communities. In the meantime, 30 more project proposals that total more than $130 million were submitted to the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management — and those “requests range from approximately $38,000 for matching funds for debris and asphalt repair in Fremont County to a roughly $44 million property acquisition project for the City of Council Bluffs.”  Earlier this month Gov. Kim Reynolds requested an additional $20 million for flood relief in the current fiscal year, but it is unclear whether the funding will be awarded.

To Go Deeper: Listen to the Iowa Public Radio story on the flood relief funding that is on hold.

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