Republican Rep. Tom Reed, who represents the sweeping 23rd congressional district that covers all of Tompkins County, met with half a dozen Cornell professors and researchers on Monday, listening as experts proposed solutions to mitigating climate change and expressed fears of reduced funding for science initiatives.
Reed, a member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, said in a statement that he cares about fostering “a beneficial, bipartisan conversation on the climate issues we face and how these issues impact our agricultural communities.”
Prof. Rebecca Schneider, natural resources, was at the morning meeting in Fernow Hall and said that because Cornell is a land grant university with a mission to solve community challenges, it is especially vital that experts engage with representatives and get their research into the real world, “not just published in a scientific journal and put on a shelf.
The meeting with Reed “was a two-way conversation about the specific issues that farmers face due to the increase in extreme weather events,” Schneider said, “and the research that Cornell faculty are doing to come up with solutions that help farmers adapt and stay economically viable given the uncertainties of both more downpours and more droughts.”
Prof. David Wolfe, horticulture, was also in the meeting and told The Sun he discussed the 2018 farm bill with the congressman as well as the budget blueprint released by The White House in March.
Reed came to the meeting “with a very open mind to talk about these issues,” Wolfe said, adding that the congressman, in his fourth term, “is concerned about how weather extremes and weather might be affecting farmers across his district, the state and across the country.”
Wolfe, at the meeting, presented data from a survey he recently conducted of 270 farmers across the state showing that 80 percent of Western New York farmers said last year’s drought had a “moderate to severe” economic impact.
“Farmers just aren’t prepared for this level of drought,” Wolfe said, adding that he and Reed shared a deep interest in helping farmers deal with the extreme weather that in many cases has devastated their crops.
Wolfe and two others in the meeting said they were encouraged by Reed’s comment on the budget proposal. They said the congressman told them the cuts to research and science funding were only initial proposals and are likely to be far from the final budget numbers.
Katherine Bunting-Howarth, associate director of New York Sea Grant and assistant director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, said she discussed how to help communities and small businesses adapt to changes in weather. They also discussed the sharp cuts in proposed spending for NOAA and the Sea Grant program.
“I felt very positive after the meeting that he appreciated the work … the Cornell Cooperative Extension and Sea Grant does,” Bunting-Howarth said. “I feel positive that Sea Grant will survive and flourish.”
“I do remain positive that we are going to survive the potential budget cuts and I’m just going to keep fighting and ensure that people know about the importance and relevance of the work we do,” she said. “It’s great being at a place like Cornell because there are so many different projects going on that are so complementary and help not just the people of New York state, but all over the world.”
Others at the meeting included Prof. Art DeGaetano, earth and atmospheric sciences, Prof. Harold van Es, soil and water management, and Prof. Michael Hoffmann, entomology.
Wolfe said that on the issues discussed at the meeting, “we had some real common interests.”
“[Reed] seemed dedicated to helping farmers with climate change or changing climate weather, whatever you want to call it,” he said.