Agricultural Adaptation to a Changing Climate
Climate change will have a tremendous economic effect on crops in the Midwest’s Corn Belt states, where annual losses could range from $1.1 billion to $4.1 billion by 2030, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service. And heightened damage from crop pests could lead to additional losses of $400 million to $600 million in the region.
In "Agricultural Adaptation to a Changing Climate: Economic and Environmental Implications Vary by U.S. Region," the ERS used four climate projections, a crop-growth simulation, and a model for predicting how farmers would change their crop selection based on market prices and crop productivity.
The study found significant variation in both regions and climate projections, largely because of uncertainty about precipitation, the web site Circle of Blue summarized, noting that the models could not account for the effects of more extreme weather events.
The report points to the importance of a regional breakdown:
An analysis that focuses exclusively on the average effect of climate
change on national production, commodity and food prices, and agricultural
trade would mask important regional differences. Climate change that alters
the relative profi tability of regional crop production may redistribute production
and resource allocations across regions, with potentially significant
implications for producer income, resource use, and environmental quality.
Assessing the potential impact of climate change on the U.S. agricultural
sector requires the ability to differentiate among regional impacts and allow
for adaptive behavior that results in shifts within and across production
regions in response to changing climate regimes.
The study findings suggest that farmers do have considerable flexibility to adapt to changes in local weather, resource conditions, and price signals by adjusting crops, rotations, and production practices. And this could partially mitigate the impacts of climate change on national agricultural markets.
But, ERS notes: "Adaptive redistribution of production, however, may have significant implications for both regional land use and environmental quality."
For a plain English explanation of how Midwestern ag producers may be affected by climate change, check out Harvest Public Media's series "Climate Pains: America's breadbasket braces for a change in the weather."