Year 2, Month 3, Day 30: How Ya Gonna Keep ’em Down On The Farm?

The Washington Post reports on a new initiative from the US Department of Agriculture:

MINNEAPOLIS — The federal government is investing $60 million in three major studies on the effects of climate change on crops and forests to help ensure farmers and foresters can continue producing food and timber while trying to limit the impact of a changing environment.

The three studies take a new approach to crop and climate research by bringing together researchers from a wide variety of fields and encouraging them to find solutions appropriate to specific geographic areas. One study will focus on Midwestern corn, another on wheat in the Northwest and a third on Southern pine forests.

Shifting weather patterns already have had a big effect on U.S. agriculture, and the country needs to prepare for even greater changes, said Roger Beachy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And since the changes are expected to vary from region to region, he said different areas will need different solutions. Some areas may gain longer growing seasons or suffer more frequent floods, while others may experience more droughts or shorter growing seasons.

Given that the WaPo has been climate-denial central in its OpEd pages for years (George Will primus inter pares), it’s always refreshing to see that its news division can still reprint an article from the AP.

Sent March 21:

It’s good news that the Department of Agriculture is putting some money towards preparation for the multivariate threats presented by runaway climate change. There is no doubt that the extreme weather events that accompany global warming present a grave danger to America’s agricultural productivity. Severe precipitation can erode farmland, destroy crop plants, or affect cultivation and harvesting. Furthermore, given the prevalence of monocultures on most large-scale farms, it is sobering to realize that regional temperature increases of only a few degrees can impact plant productivity significantly. But the USDA’s research isn’t enough. We must recognize throughout this country that denial of climatic facts is no longer an option; “tea-party” Republicans and timid coal-state Democrats both need to address scientific reality. There is no time to waste. If we fail to act decisively on the causes of anthropogenic global warming, a devastated agricultural system will be the least of our worries.

Warren Senders

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