King must serve

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

With respect, we disagree with our friends at The Des Moines Register and Sioux City Journal who this week called on Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, to resign over his remarks involving white supremacy, white nationalism and western civilization, as it were. They argue that he is not fully representing the Fourth Congressional District because the House Republicans just stripped him of his agriculture and judiciary committee assignments, and that his statements do not reflect mainstream Iowa values.

King should not resign. He was just re-elected in November to a ninth term with everyone knowing full well what his views were on race and culture. Nobody should be suddenly shocked. Voters took all this into account before casting their ballot. Perhaps nothing is better known about King than his views on Latino immigrants.

In fact, the government is shut down because President Trump took up King’s long crusade to build a wall that spans the US-Mexico border and has made a national crisis out of it. This is what the people voted for.

King losing his committee assignments is inconsequential in a House controlled by Democrats. Nobody on the agriculture committee would listen to him, anyhow, and the five-year farm bill is safely written into law. There is really nothing for King to do in the next two years even with a committee assignment. Most of his supporters understand this and hope he gives The Establishment hell over it, which King certainly is. He says he is the victim of a political conspiracy that does not respect the truth. And, he said he is being punished for freely speaking his mind; he is right about that.

And that is precisely why most people voted for Steve King. He cannot be silenced. That means something in a region that nobody has listened to for a long time, long before King came along.

King probably will run again. Do not assume he will lose a primary because the powers in Washington or Des Moines wish it. Let Republican voters have their say at that time. And, then let all the voters have their say in a general election. If King wins, he gets his committee assignments back. If he loses, we are rid of him once and for all. Let the process play out. This is what the voters of the Fourth District expect.

Our biggest issue

We were conversing with a prominent Iowa State University scientist this week over reports that the oceans’ fish could be dead by 2048, and that icebergs are melting six times faster than they were in 1970. It scared us down to our socks. Our friend replied that he had seen the reports and deemed them credible. “We are nearing ‘brace yourself’ time,” he said. “Once the largest buffer against a changing climate shows signs of stress, we are all in deep do-do.”

That is at the top of almost no political agenda.

It barely got a mention from Gov. Kim Reynolds in her Condition of the State Address. We have no idea what the legislature will do about water quality, which is deteriorating amid climate change and intensifying production agriculture. We are in a soil erosion catastrophe as weather becomes more extreme, Iowa’s crop productivity is imperiled, and nitrogen fertilizer itself is a major driver of greenhouse gas accumulation.

Climate change should receive the same attention as property taxes, education and wider highways. But few politicians take it that seriously. Farmers are. They are starting to return to more diverse crop rotations, combined with grazing, that can cut nitrogren consumption by more than half and reduce off-field pollution by 96%, according to Iowa State.

There should be an all-out effort to help farmers and rural communities diversify their crop and livestock base as climate change already is impacting yields and depleting our natural resource base. The current trajectory in economic terms is stark, as farmers continue to lose money in the soy-pork-corn-ethanol rotation, and younger farmers struggle to survive.

It should start with refunding for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State, a $300,000 annual appropriations bargain that shows farmers how to become resilient against extreme weather and poor markets. It should expand with a complete focus by the Extension Service to partner with the Practical Farmers of Iowa to evangelize crop diversification and grazing renewal that capture carbon and restore small towns.

Dennis Keeney, the founding director of the Leopold Center, told us that we need to reduce our corn acreage by a third to half to save our soil and maintain our land productivity. The legislature and governor could help lead the way. This is not a partisan issue. Our state’s very survival depends on an immediate, urgent and comprehensive approach to climate change and agriculture. It doesn’t sound like the governor factored that into her assessment of our condition.