Watch the CBSN Originals documentary "A Climate Reckoning in the Heartland" in the above video player. The special premieres on the hour on CBSN Sunday, July 28, at 20.00 clock, 23.00 clock and 2 clock ET.
Brett Adams, a fifth-generation farmer from Nebraska, took a break to catch his breath. Under the dark gray clouds of spring in the Midwest, he had to deal with an alarming reality: 80% of his farmland was under freezing cold water.
In March 2019,flooded America's Bread Basket, a region that is also a major exporter of corn and soybeans to the world. Much of the Midwest was flooded by due to heavy rains, frozen soils that could not absorb water, heavy snowmelt, and a series of extreme weather events that culminated in a severe winter storm, as described by meteorologists as " ."
"The winter was generally colder than normal, with both a wet winter and fall, so the soils were nearly saturated," said Nebraska climatologist Martha Shulski.
The floods damaged public infrastructure and resulted in the loss of grain, livestock and the evacuation of thousands of people from their homes. The governor of Nebraska said that in that state alone, the cost of the damage exceeded $ 1.3 billion.
"I lie around at night and think about it, you know, trying to estimate how much these cereal baskets will cost to replace them, how much corn I had in them, now lying in the water that is ruined. How much, if any, will be saved, "Adams said.
Like many peasants in the area, Adams & # 39; runs along the Missouri River, the longest US waterway. The storms broke dikes that were built decades ago to protect the areas along the shores. Much of the flood defense infrastructure was built 70 years ago, but over the past three decades, rainfall in the region has risen by about 8%.
The US Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency responsible for managing the country's dike systems, has reported a record runoff over the past 15 years. This historic flood has made it clear that unpredictable weather patterns. After massive flooding in 2011, the Corps had to repair five fractures. So far, they have to do with 50 in 2019.
"Our current goal is to close all violations by March 2020," said Matthew Krajewski, head of the Army Corps of Engineers preparedness division. However, if the Corps upgraded the dike to newer technical standards – to cope with the increase in floods predicted in the coming years – the funds would have to be approved by the US Congress.
A recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report found that the US had the wettest 12 months since its inception, with an average of 38 inches of precipitation from July 2018 to June 2019.
so Adams it in personal terms. "When I was a kid," he said, "a few inches of rain or a foot and a half of rain was a big deal, and now it's like we're getting four or five inches of rain all the time, or six." Even inches of rain. That was unknown. "
" I'm not a guy for climate change, global warming or anything like that, "Adams said," but did I see how the weather changed, for example, during my 20-year career as a farmer? Absolutely. "
In response to these difficult changes, some Nebraska farmers are considering new ways to keep their businesses alive, one of them, Graham Christensen, is traveling around the country to discuss an environmentally friendly agriculture initiative
Proponents of regenerative agriculture claim that their practices can promote healthier soil and support a wider variety of crops, giving farmers more opportunities to profit from it Impact of Floods Reduced
"If all were to use more regenerative practices to improve soil health, that flood would not have been so damaging," Christensen said "We are working against the ecosystem, instead with him. "
Modern agriculture and food production are not only affected by climate change, they also contribute to it. According to the EPA, more than 8% of US greenhouse gas emissions came from the agricultural sector in 2017.
While some farmers in conservative parts of the country refuse to refer to increasingly extreme weather as climate change, Christensen says, "With each storm, more and more attitudes change.
"There are more and more people connecting every day – No, I've never seen it, my parents have never seen it, and my grandparents have never seen it before" Christensen said.
"Every time this happens, you see more people who are more open to some of these concerns about the climate we're talking about."