Is U.S. Agriculture Being Choked Out by Climate Change?

Is U.S. Agriculture Being Choked Out by Climate Change?

The recently released Fourth Annual Climate Assessment from the U.S. Global Change Research Program does not paint a rosy picture, especially when it comes to the future of farm productivity. The comprehensive report, a collaborative, 1,600-page piece sourced from more than a dozen government agencies and 300+ authors, focuses on climate change and its impacts in the U.S.  Chapter 10 specifically addresses climate change impacts on agriculture and rural communities. The No. 1 key message of the chapter is “Reduced Agriculture Productivity.”


This key point was summed up in the report as follows: “Food and forage production will decline in regions experiencing increased frequency and duration of drought (high confidence). Shifting precipitation patterns, when associated with high temperatures, will intensify wildfires that reduce forage on rangelands, accelerate the depletion of water supplies for irrigation, and expand the distribution and incidence of pests and diseases for crops and livestock (very likely, high confidence). Modern breeding approaches and the use of novel genes from crop wild relatives are being employed to develop higher-yielding, stress-tolerant crops.”

The report illustrates that yields from major U.S. commodity crops are expected to decline as a consequence of higher temperatures. Similarly, specialty crops and its growers will feel the impact: “Increasing temperatures are also projected to have an impact on specialty crops (fruits, nuts, vegetables, and nursery crops), although the effects will be variable depending on the crops and where they are grown. Additional challenges involve the loss of synchrony of seasonal phenomena (for example, between crops and pollinators). Further, the interactive effects of rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations, elevated temperatures, and changes in other climate factors are expected to enhance weed competitiveness relative to crops, with temperature being a predominant factor.”

The report lists three other key messages in the chapter:

According to a section on the U.S. Global Change Research Program website, history of the climate assessment can be traced back to a Presidential Initiative in 1989, which was mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act of 1990 to develop and coordinate “a comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”

In response to the latest iteration of the climate assessment, President Trump was recently quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “I don’t believe it.”

Do you believe climate change is impacting the way you grow and harvest crops?

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Scroll the gallery at the top to view a few relevant graphics extracted from the Fourth Annual Climate Assessment.

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Greig A Sayre says:

So we should reduce our output of greenhouse gases? The most important greenhouse gas is water vapor. It is also the most abundant. Let’s see if we can reduce the amount of water vapor in our atmosphere. The earth’s albedo is greatest over snow fields. The “Climate Assessment” is like that; it is a snow job, or more properly Junk Science.

Jeff Norman says:

We must realize there is a large cadre of people educated to be alarmists about climate change and they need to produce these reports to justify their belief and their jobs in the bureaucracy of both the government and universities. There are numerous reports debunking the Fourth Annual Climate Assessment for making questionable assumptions and then extrapolating the assumptions to arrive at incorrect assessments.

Mike Kahl says:

Paul Rusnak, how do you consider your self a journalist by repeating this climate assessment. If you would have investigated the projections of the report you would see that it was based on unrealistic amounts of pollution to skew the results to further the power grab of government.

Donald R Wirth says:

I still struggle with climate change since never see any discussion about how much more water will evaporate and where it will go with increase temperatures??

Russe says:

American agriculture is being choked out by slave labor wage rates of foreign imported priduce. Governments south of our boarders think 8-15 Dollars for a full day’s work is a fair wage. The finished produce they work to grow is sold in U S markets at US market prices.

Southern Tier Farmer says:

I agree with Greig, Jeff,and Mike. This article is hogwash. How vain man must be to think we can affect the climate. If we could wouldn’t we be changing it to be just what we want where we want it? I laugh when someone predicts the future. 70+ years? Really? If so how about we look at how ag has changed since 1949. Come on GP you can do better than this.