Climate Change Likely to Have Uneven Effect on Ag Productivity

Some regions that have already adapted to tough climate conditions may see less disruption on the farm than other areas that aren’t as accustomed to drought and higher temperatures.

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The impact of climate change on agricultural production will vary by region, with some states like Louisiana, North Dakota, and Oklahoma becoming less productive while states along the Pacific Coast may see little change.

The regional variation is a combination of how deeply climate change will disrupt historic weather patterns and how prepared agricultural regions are for drought and other changes in normal weather, according to an article by USDA Economic Research Service. The article was published in Amber Waves, a monthly online magazine published by ERS.

For example, crop farmers in states like California, which is already so dry that farmers invested in irrigation systems, will be less vulnerable to reduced rainfall caused by climate change. Other states like Louisiana, which relies more on rainfall to water crops, would see bigger losses in production if drier conditions hit, the study shows.

The impact of climate change on agricultural productivity hinged in part on a region’s overall weather trends. Farmers in a state that is accustomed to a wide range of seasonal temperatures and rainfall may be better prepared for climate fluctuation than a region that has had less variety in weather in the past.

National variation also arose from the types of products regions produce. For example, livestock are affected by the weather that occurs year-round, according to a working paper on which the ERS article was based. Crops, on the other hand, contend with weather conditions during the growing season.

The map shows the potential impact on ag productivity assuming a a 2-degree Celsius temperature increase and a one-inch decrease in precipitation. The map shows “total factor productivity,” which accounts for both production and the cost of inputs like seed, irrigation, fertilizer, labor, equipment, and other factors.

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