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Farmers join programs that pay them to combat climate change in Iowa

Farmer Randy Miller is shown with his soybeans, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, at his farm in Lacona, Iowa.

(The Center Square) – For Mitchell Hora, life has become a world of adjustments.

“We’re harvesting rye with soybeans on the same acre,” Hora told the Hawk Eye. “We take a yield hit with both crops. But the combination of the two really pumps up soil health and really pumps up carbon sequestration.”

Like many struggling farmers across the state, Hora and his father are looking for ways to add to their bottom line at a time when in some ways they are being asked to reinvent themselves in the name of preserving the planet.

Carbon farming is one of a growing list of initiatives sprouting up across the state where authorities are offering to compensate farmers willing to adopt practices that store carbon, a major ingredient of the greenhouse gases leading to global warming.

Former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently saidf there is “tremendous opportunity” in Iowa for improved sustainability given a list of factors that include the vast scale of farming in the state and agriculture’s role in environmental challenges.

The issue of farm sustainability is not new in the state, though Iowa Interfaith Power & Light Executive Director Matthew Russell said the politics around climate change have made it difficult for farmers to have a consistent voice.

Casting farmers as among those most affected by potential changes, the leader of the nonprofit group that prides itself on offering a religious response to climate change added “we might be part of the problem, but we’re also a big part of the solution.”

Across the country, farming accounts for about 11% of the greenhouse emissions, contributing to climate change as lands are tilled, trees are cleared, and crop diversity and small livestock operations are reduced.

Through it all, Hora estimates that his family can generate up to $18 per acre in revenue based on their conservation practices as he added he and his father have been working hard at reducing tillage along with cutting their fertilizer use by half and herbicide applications by as much as a fourth.

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