By Brian Barth
If there is one thing Tuesday's elections reinforced, it is that city folks and country folks are firmly rooted on opposite sides of America's partisan divide. Farmers are traditionally a conservative bunch and they have flocked to President Trump, even when it is questionable that it's in their best interests to do so.
The president's trade wars have caused the export value of certain crops, most notably soybeans (America's biggest ag export) to plummet. And his stance on immigration stands to have a profound impact on the cheap foreign labor that farmers rely on, which is already in short supply. These are but a couple of the issues that figured heavily in closely contested rural races.
Incumbents are listed first below, while the winner (where known at press time) is underlined.
1. Heidi Heitkamp (D) vs. Kevin Cramer (R) – North Dakota Senate
Heitkamp, the Democratic incumbent in this extremely rural state which exports huge quantities of soybeans to China, hoped that the farmers hurting from the President's trade war would help propel her to victory. If any farmers did jump ship, their numbers were not enough to overcome her opponent, a Trump protégé who has expressed support for the trade war.
2. Jon Tester (D) vs Matt Rosendale (R) – Montana Senate
This race remains too close to call—as of press time, the Democratic incumbent leads his opponent by a mere 1,000 votes. Tester is one of two organic farmers in Congress, so a loss here would be a major blow to the movement. If he wins, it will at least be in part due to his ability to connect with the state's many farmers and ranchers.
3. John Faso (R) vs. Antonio Delgado (D) – New York 19th House District
John Faso, a member of the House Ag Committee, which is heavily sympathetic to the interests of industrial agriculture, was always an odd fit with this Hudson Valley district, an area known as a mecca for organic farmers—one agricultural demographic that tilts heavily to the left.
4. Steve King (R) vs. J.D. Scholten (D) – Iowa 4th House District
Scholten's longshot campaign to defeat the notoriously racist incumbent leaned heavily on his family's deep farming roots in the area. He traveled the countryside in a used Winnebago converted into a campaign bus, often stopping at farms and grain elevators to ask for farmers' support. This transformed the race from a sure win for King—the district is extremely conservative—into a nail-biter. In the end, however, King squeaked out a victory.
5. Jeff Denham (R) vs. Josh Harder (D) – California 10th House District
This race remains too close to call—as of press time, the Republican incumbent leads his opponent by less than 1,500 votes. This Central Valley district is known as a haven of corporate agriculture, which typically tilts right. But it is also home to a large Hispanic population, which supplies the labor force for the farms. Whether the left-leaning immigrant community will tip the scales for the Democrat remains to be seen.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
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