Some remain skeptical and say climates always change. But some view this year's extreme weather as a sign of things to come.
"It was like a blow dryer, 100 degree blow dryer," DTN Policy Editor Chris Clayton said.
A scorching summer burned up crop and pastureland from Texas through Nebraska and beyond. Some see it as further evidence of climate change. Clayton said, "We've gone from extreme flooding to extreme drought in one year's time." Some farmers are skeptical. But among Nebraska Farmers Union members like Ron Meyer of Superior, climate change is seen as a very real threat. He said, "The fact we are putting more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere certainly has to have some consequences." And for an industry that depends so heavily on weather, farmers and ranchers say the impact is huge.
Meyer said, "We've adapted to saving moisture with no till but there will be other changes we'll have to make if climate is changing."
Governor Dave Heineman told Farmers Union members that agriculture is the reason the state has weathered economic storms.
But the lack of rainstorms is worrisome. "What we are concerned about if we go through a second of third year of drought is the impact on agriculture and there will be tension between ag uses, business uses, and city uses. That's why we desperately need moisture," Heineman said. If it's not just a temporary drought, but a larger shift, some see opportunity for small town Nebraska.
Clayton said, "Whether it's renewable fuels, wind, solar, biomass certainly, any renewable energy you talk about almost predominantly is going to be grown and produced in rural American versus urban America." Farmers Union was an early champion of both ethanol and wind energy.
The group's leaders think it's best to err on the side of caution and work to address climate change.
Battle Lines Drawn
Right now the battle lines are being drawn over who gets to use water, if the drought worsens. It's Nebraska law that domestic use of water comes first, written in our state constitution.That's tough to swallow for industries that depend on water, like manufacturing and farming.
State lawmakers like Sen. Annette Dubas say they need to take another look at the impact. She said, "It sounds like we're getting some snow in the mountains so maybe that will help with stream flows, still, if we don't get more moisture this spring and summer when we really need it, there's going to be definite battle lines drawn and we need to be engaged as quickly as possible on that."
Dubas says some areas already restricted water use this fall, including Lincoln and Norfolk.
She said if things don't improve, irrigators in other areas may have to limit their water, which could be hugely detrimental to the state's cash crops.