Guest Column: Presidential candidates should support Iowa to receive Iowa’s vote


Guest columnist O’Connor-Walker believes Iowa’s land is important to the well-being of the United States. O’Connor-Walker argues that if presidential candidates want Iowa’s support, they must first support Iowa.

What does Iowa represent? For many, it represents mass expanses of farm, sprinkled with red barns and silos. Iowa is idyllic, simple and comforting. Iowa’s the heartland.

Ninety-two percent of Iowa is farmland, and it contains approximately one-third of America’s most fertile soil. Most of Iowa’s residents are dependent upon this soil and its crops. Iowa produces one-eleventh of America’s food, being the largest producer in corn, pork and eggs and second in soybeans. It is built on the back of agricultural industries, so what would happen if that were to change?

According to Richard Cruse of Iowa State, midwest topsoil is the most fertile and the most vulnerable to degradation. The most common cause of degradation largely being soil erosion, particularly in Iowa.

Soil erosion is when soil particles detach from the surface by force; in Iowa’s case, that force is water. Based on USDA estimated soil loss from erosion, Iowa is losing one pound of soil for every pound of corn grain produced and three pounds of soil for every pound of soybeans. According to the Daily Erosion Project, some areas of Iowa are experiencing erosion rates of 50 tons per acre or more each year. This is 100 times faster than the soil renewal rate.

According to Professor James Boulter, Iowa’s average rainfall has been increasing by almost 1.25 inches per decade with a total increase of more than 12 percent since the 1970’s, a statewide trend that is the largest in America.

In 2016, Cruse showed how topsoil is thinned by soil erosion. The water infiltration rates and soil’s ability to hold water is reduced; therefore, it is less fertile and its health suffers. This impacts our crop productivity through crop yield. Cruse described a scenario where 2.2 bushels of corn yield loss per acre across 14 million acres in a year at $4 per bushel. This would result in crop production loss the following year of roughly $4.3 million. If 0.8 bushels of soybean yield were lost per inch of topsoil thinning across just 10 million acres, at $10 per bushel, the income loss would be roughly $2.75 million.

In Cruse’s study, the cumulative loss of the first year was $7 million; by the tenth year, the loss was about $315 million. Had it been extended to the fifteenth year, the loss could have been $735 million. The study concluded that topsoil thinning is closely linked to loss of crop production. Statewide, erosion may have minor impacts on crop yield, yet cumulative effects are significant, leading to more damage as time progresses.

What does this mean for Iowa’s future? Loss of crops can result in loss of Iowa’s major industry: agriculture. The 2020 election is coming up, and Iowa is the first state to caucus, meaning it’s time for candidates to incorporate Iowan issues in their campaign.

According to a survey of Ames High Students, one-fourth of which will be voting in 2020, 60 percent said they didn’t like the current candidates. And 64.3 percent also said that they’ve noticed Iowa’s increased rainfall, with 64.6 percent claiming they’re aware the rain increase is a result of climate change. When asked if they thought soil erosion would lead to crop yield reduction, most said yes. Ninety percent of students think this will have negative impacts on the economy. Fifty-six percent worried those impacts would negatively affect their and their families’ futures. To conclude the survey, 61.8 percent of students claimed that if climate change’s effects on Iowa were addressed in campaigns, they would be more interested in candidates.

Presidential candidates use Iowa as a launching pad for their campaigns. Now, Iowa is at risk. While we struggle to find a candidate we can get behind, making Iowan issues a priority in their campaigns could be the deciding factor in many Iowans’ decisions. If presidential candidates want Iowa to support them, they have to support Iowa.