Year 3, Month 10, Day 5: The Reaper Will Reap

The Fresno Bee (CA) notes the likely impact of a transformed climate on regional agriculture:

New science and research has San Joaquin Valley farmers taking a harder look at the effect that climate change may have on their industry.

If researcher’s predictions hold true, the Valley’s multi-billion dollar agriculture industry will be hit with longer stretches of hot temperatures, fewer colder days and shrinking water supplies.

What that means for agriculture is potentially lower yields, a loss of revenue and fewer acres being farmed.

Farmers and industry leaders say that while there is still skepticism among their ranks, they are doing what they can to stay ahead of the issue, including educating themselves, testing new fruit varieties or investing in water-saving technologies.

“You know, this is sort of like Y2K,” said Joel Nelsen, president of the Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, a citrus trade group. “You better figure out if it is going to affect you or not and what are the possible scenarios.”

One of those scenarios is not good news for farmers. Researchers predict that rising temperatures over the next several decades could pinch the yields of some Valley crops, including an 18% drop in citrus, 6% in grapes and 9% among cherries and other orchard crops.

Nelsen said he was one of the early naysayers. The early debates about climate change were often mired in politics, or seen by farmers as an agenda pushed by the environmental community. But more credible research has caused many to take the issue more seriously.

“I am not completely buying into it,” Nelsen said. “But as an industry, it behooves us to be out in front of an issue that could affect the production of citrus in the state.”

Nelsen wants to know how hotter temperatures will affect the flavor of citrus fruit and how oranges will develop their vibrant color with fewer colder days.

One of these days the “if it had an Arabic name the Republicans would be lining up to denounce it” idea will see print. Sent September 27:

If a terrorist group threatened our farmlands, Congress would react. If a terrorist group threatened our water supply, Congress would react. If a terrorist group threatened our infrastructure, our power grid, or our communications systems, you can bet your bottom dollar you’d see our legislators sounding the alarm. Why, then, have they been so reluctant to acknowledge the threat of global climate change, which endangers all aspects of our society from top to bottom?

It’s too bad that the greenhouse effect doesn’t come with a scary Arabic-sounding name; that might persuade the Islamophobic Republican Party to pay attention to something that puts more Americans at risk than any jihadist nightmare scenario. Seriously, when we contemplate the effect of climate change on agriculture, it’s absolutely clear that we’re facing a world of hurt, with spiking food prices and diminished production heralding a future in which hunger affects more of our nation’s population than at any time in the past century.

Warren Senders

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