The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Rural Maryland:
Climate Change Kills Corn

Mar 11, 2024

Farmland in Caroline County, Maryland, as far as 15 miles from seawater, has become increasingly overloaded with salt in recent years. Salty soil kills corn, which farmers on the Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore depend on growing to sell as chicken feed. This destructive problem results from climate change.

The ocean is rising because the water and air are becoming warmer due to industrial pollution. The higher sea level sometimes reverses the flow of drainage ditches. Usually, these ditches drain floodwater from farmlands into the ocean. Now, unusually high tides make ocean saltwater flow inland along these ditches and spill onto the fields. Also, for millennia, tidal creeks have flowed slowly inland at high tide and back out to sea at low tide—more often carrying saltwater further inland and depositing it there. Extreme storms like Superstorm Sandy in 2012 caused massive saltwater surge flooding of farmland. The salt then chemically loosens phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizer, and these pollutants drain into the Bay, causing algal blooms and dead zones.

Caroline County, the only landlocked Eastern Shore County, had over a 450% growth of salt patches in the last decade. On the Delmarva Peninsula as a whole, thousands of acres of farmland became salt patches. Meanwhile, in nearby forests, salt kills many hardwoods, like oaks. The same problem is happening from Massachusetts all the way to Mexico, but also in China, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Australia … eight square miles are scarred by salt every day around the world, researchers say.

Eastern Shore farmers have few options. Salt-resistant crops like sorghum for chicken feed or switchgrass for chicken bedding bring in much less money. It’s another way climate change caused by capitalism wreaks havoc on working people.