Climate Change Is Impacting Northeast Agriculture’s “Bottom Line”

Japanese millet being grown at the University of Rhode Island Agronomy Farm

There may be little that individual producers can do to change the climate, but there are ways to adapt quickly to anticipated weather-related risks.

    Northeast

    But is there anything we can do about it? 

    There may be little that individual producers can do to change the climate, but there are ways to adapt quickly to anticipated weather-related risks.

    So, what are some of the risks?

    Recent scientific information has strengthened the need to adapt to change. In another newsletter feature we highlight the recently released 4th National Climate Assessment. The report breaks down the discussion of climate impacts by region, including the Northeastern U.S.

    Closer to home, Northeast Climate Hub partners have published two studies exploring how a changing climate is affecting regional crops and livestock and what to do. David Wolfe from Cornell University and Alex Hristov of Penn State presented recent webinars on the Impacts and Opportunities of Climate Change on Northeast Crops and Livestock. Both resources provide compelling evidence of how climate is changing and the impact it has on communities and agriculture.

    These changes include:

    • Increased frequency of temperature exceeding crop and livestock damage thresholds;
    • Difficulty-to-predict, increased risk of both drought and flooding;
    • Increased and changing pest, disease, and weed pressures;
    • Increased frequency of extreme weather events; and
    • Rising sea waters causing increased coastal flooding and saltwater intrusion.

    Agricultural producers will be forced to adapt to these changes by increasing the use of certain crop, soil, and water management practices. For some, this means diversifying cropping systems, introducing new crop varieties, and improving soil health and resiliency. Others may need to install extra or more efficient irrigation systems, provide cooling technologies for livestock, or add frost protection for sensitive tree fruits and other specialty crops.

    With so many options, it can often be difficult for producers to make the right decision and choose what is most important to invest in first. There are several tools currently out there and in development that can help them decide.

    1. Cornell’s Climate Smart Farming website has tools that incorporate historical weather information and develop likelihoods of short-term future weather patterns. This kind of information could help prioritize what strategies they should implement to reduce financial risks.
    2. The AgRisk Viewer allows viewers to explore, visualize, and analyze USDA Risk Management Agency’s Federal Crop Insurance data over time and space. This can provide them with an understanding of the role of long-term climate trends through the data, and visualize the types weather events most costly locally and elsewhere.
    3. Other tools can compare the benefits and costs of implementing practices. The NRCS Cover Crop Economics Decision Support Tool is one example.
    4. Finally, economic case studies that describe a producer’s experience with adopting certain climate-related practices and their realized benefits and costs provide real-world examples of adaptation.

    Want more information?

    Here are some links to the resources highlighted in this article: