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Rural voters ‘in the trenches’ on climate, wary of Biden

Due to the California drought, Sacramento Valley rice farmer and graduate student Raquel Krach has planted very little. Using groundwater, she and her husband planted 75 acres this year to maintain their markets. The rest of the 200 acres she usually sows have been left empty due to an inadequate water supply.

The 53-year-old Democrat said it was clear to her that climate change was to blame. But she says the notion is deeply divisive in her community.

“Our ties with our neighbors are quite limited because our views are so different. Climate change is normally something we don’t even discuss because our views are so different,” Krach said.

The impacts of climate change have hit communities across the country, including the Crash, but voters in rural communities are the least likely to think Washington is in their corner on the issue. Rural Americans and experts suggest there is a disconnect between how leaders talk about climate change and how these communities experience it.

AP VoteCast, a large survey of the 2022 midterm electorate, shows clear differences between urban and rural communities in voter sentiment on President Joe Biden’s climate management and whether climate change has a impact on their communities.

About half of voters nationwide approve of the president’s handling of the issue, despite the passage of the Cut Inflation Act this summer, which meant historic investments aimed at reducing emissions that cause climate change . While about 6 in 10 urban voters approve, the figure drops to about half for suburbanites and about 4 in 10 for rural voters.

The urban-rural divide exists within the Republican Party, showing that these differences are not solely driven by a partisan divide between bluer cities and redder countryside. While 27% of urban Republicans approve of Biden’s climate leadership, only 14% of small-town and rural Republicans say the same, VoteCast showed.

Sarah Jaynes, executive director of the Rural Democracy Initiative, which provides funding to groups that support progressive policies in rural areas, suggested the overall urban-rural divide has a lot to do with messaging issues.

“People in rural areas and small towns are less likely to think Democrats are fighting for people like them, so there’s a partisan trust issue,” Jaynes said. “I think there’s a problem where people don’t want to signal that they support Democrats in rural communities right now.”

VoteCast also shows that despite nationwide climate crises — from hurricanes to wildfires to droughts — voters worry about whether climate change is in their backyard. About three-quarters of urban voters are at least somewhat worried about the effects of climate change in their communities, compared to about 6 in 10 suburbanites and about half of small town and rural voters.

This difference is not necessarily explained by a lack of confidence in climate change among rural communities. A September AP-NORC poll showed majorities in all types of communities saying climate change is happening.

“If you’re talking about the climate in general, rural people might be like, ‘Well, do you really care about me? Are you talking about me? said Jaynes. “If you ask them ‘are you concerned about the floods? Does the water crisis worry you? Are you concerned about the impacts of extreme weather conditions? You’re going to hear a lot more positive things when you meet them where they are.

In the Krach community, she says, “everyone is very clear that there is no water and there is a drought. Whether they attribute this to climate change is different.

Nationally, extreme weather conditions have meant that agriculture has taken a huge hit. The Crash experience is not unique: California’s ongoing drought means Colusa and Glenn counties have seen their rice acreage drop by at least three-quarters, according to analysis by agricultural economist UC -Davis Aaron Smith. In Texas, drought and a heat wave mean nearly 70% of cotton crops are likely to be abandoned. In Georgia, farmers have started growing citrus fruits as the weather warms and becomes increasingly untenable for fishing.

Johnathan Hladik, director of policy at the Center for Rural Affairs of Nebraska, an organization focused on developing rural communities, including environmental stewardship, said the nature of much of the work done by rural people makes difficult to review on a global scale, as in agriculture.

“Farmers experience climate change in a very different way than most city dwellers. It’s in every part of their job. It’s almost like it’s a day-to-day battle. You’re in the trenches every day and it’s really hard to step back and see the big picture,” he said.

Olivia Staudt, a 20-year-old junior at Iowa State University, grew up on a fourth-generation corn, bean and row crop farm in Marble Rock, Iowa. The Republican said another contributing factor to the divide on climate issues is that some rural people believe that urban communities assign them disproportionate blame on climate issues without looking in the mirror.

“There always has to be a scapegoat, and it seems that’s what rural communities are for a lot of these urban areas,” Staudt said. “But no one has all the blame or creates all the problems.”

Staudt knows firsthand how much farming communities think about natural resources – his family not only uses the land but maintains it for the future, and that connection to the Earth can be more remote for urban residents. When she sees big new developments in cities and smog, coupled with a perception of the agricultural sector being blamed for climate change, she feels bad.

The findings are complicated by a lack of knowledge about Biden’s climate actions. The September AP-NORC poll found about 6 in 10 American adults said they knew little or nothing about the Cut Inflation Act – a law widely hailed as the biggest investment in climate spending. Of the history.

The IRA, which Biden signed in August, included about $375 billion in climate investments over 10 years. Among other things, the legislation provides about $260 billion in renewable energy tax credits and provides consumption rebates to households for heat pumps and solar panels, and up to $7,500 in credits for electric vehicles.

Some elements of the law also target the agricultural sector. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the law includes $20 billion for conservation programs run by the department, $3 billion in relief for USDA distressed borrowers whose operations are at financial risk, and 2 billions of dollars in financial assistance to farmers who have been discriminated against in the past. USDA loan programs.

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Follow AP coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. Find more details on the AP VoteCast methodology at https://www.ap.org/votecast.


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