A writer at Harper’s Magazine has reached his tipping point at the height of the Iowa Caucus, penning a vicious attack on the Hawkeye State and its agricultural practices.
“It seems to defy reason that this anachronistic farm state — a demographic outlier, with no major cities and just 3 million people, nine out of ten of them white — should play such an outsized role in American politics,” writes Richard Manning.
Manning then goes on to blast the state’s agriculture sector as a nonregulated polluter, dumping harmful nitrates into the state’s rivers and streams. He does propose a solution, however – diverting farm drainage pipes into wetlands and pastures instead.
“Ten acres of wetland can treat the runoff from 1,000 acres of hard-farmed corn,” he writes. “By timing their applications, farmers might also apply less fertilizer while still ensuring their yields.”
Manning then turns his ire to another agricultural target – farm subsidies, which have totaled $84 million between 1995 and 2012. He also argues that Iowa congressman Steve King, has undue influence in Washington, D.C., and that the current ethanol mandate “is imposed by the heavy hand of the government in a manner that violates basic conservative principles,” before tying obesity to farming’s vast corn and soybean acreage and dismissing Gov. Terry Brandstad as “primarily a shill for Big Ag.”
“Politics in a state such as Iowa, however, teaches us that laws are only the beginning of the process, the opening bell for litigation, lobbying, and defiance,” he argues. “Faced with a federal mandate to regulate hog manure, Branstad simply cut the budget that paid for inspectors … Want to regulate the manner in which farms pump liquid S***? Sure. Can you do it with the twenty-eight inspectors Iowa has to oversee 4,000 hog factories, the pumping on which occurs almost entirely during a few weeks in autumn, and often at night?”
Manning’s essay, “The Trouble with Iowa,” appears in the Feb. 2016 issue of Harper’s Magazine.