Get out and campaign

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

The Storm Lake School Board has our best wishes in passing a bond issue this September for a new early childhood education center. It will take more than that to get this issue over the 60% approval threshold. The board held some listening sessions and did a survey, and feels it has answered most of the concerns. The board in response cut the proposed tax rate by 30% and stretched out the life of the project to lessen the cash flow burden on a property owner.

In the first try last winter, the vote failed by fewer than 60 votes. It might have passed if there had been a coordinated campaign led by families and teachers. There wasn’t. There were a few good people who did the best they could. There was no advertising, no phone calling, no door knocking and no letter-writing campaign. It takes somebody separate from the board to raise the money and organize the volunteers for a political proposition. The board cannot direct such a campaign. It can only encourage it.

It will take families, teachers and other community volunteers to organize a winning campaign. Otherwise, the conditions haven’t changed that much: it still means an increase in property taxes that comes during a terrible time for agriculture.

The project is needed urgently. Administrators are at a loss where to put children. The problem is not projected to ease in coming years as enrollment continues to grow. Study after study shows that early childhood education is crucial to gaining skills later in school, and in life. We have no doubts that the project is needed, and there is never a good time to do it. It falls on us to get the job done.

That will take a campaign. There’s a reason presidential candidates do it: because it works. If the pro-bond issues don’t campaign, the dissenters naturally will fill the vacuum. This bond issue deserves a full effort. A few listening sessions and some fond wishes won’t cut it this time, either.

Ignoring the obvious

The Little Sioux River raged around the Linn Grove dam and is roiling to undermine the bridge just downstream. Farmers mudded in a crop this year as the rain barely let up. We are losing soil from flat northern Iowa at alarming rates. Rising temperatures are stunting corn production in the western Great Plains. We know all this. We can see it. It is confirmed by the leading scientists at Iowa State University.

Yet the US Department of Agriculture apparently doesn’t care whether you know. Politico reported last week that the department has suppressed dozens of government-funded studies warning about catastrophic impacts of climate change on agriculture — and ultimately our nation’s food supply. The political website and magazine cited many of the studies commissioned by the Agriculture Research Service that were squelched: that too much carbon in the air lessens rice nutrition, that planting cover crops could reduce pollution of the Gulf of Mexico, that the Ogallala Aquifer will run out of water soon, and that higher CO2 can harm grasses upon which grazing animals depend. All of these studies we have noted, but the ARS was not allowed to. Fortunately, their research partners at land grant universities such as Iowa State do want their good work to be known and publicize it.

But what isn’t published by universities we don’t know.

So the practice is both silly and dangerous. Silly in that any Iowan knows it is raining cats and dogs, and dangerous in that we might be prevented from knowing how to cope with it. “What I see unfortunately happening many times is that we tried to make policy decisions based on political science rather than on sound science,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told Politico. All the studies that were suppressed at ARS were peer-reviewed, sound science.

Fact is, cover crops to prevent surface water pollution interfere with the current agrichemical paradigm. Noting carbon dioxide’s harm to crops heats up the effort to limit emissions, which offends fossil fuel conglomerates. Ignoring aquifers ignores the sustainability of the current cattle feeding complex from Amarillo to Dodge City, which serves short-term interests sucking the Ogallala and its people dry.

Climate change is hurting agriculture in the here and now. USDA is sticking our national head in the sand.

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