The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Midwestern Farming Is in Danger From Climate Change
By Dan Nosowitz
From cranberry bogs in New England to citrus groves in California, soybeans in the plains states and cotton in Texas, few facts hold true about American agriculture across the board. A new study from Cornell University indicates that even climate change may not affect all regions equally.
The study was designed to learn about regional climate sensitivity—exactly how much and in what ways climate changes can impact distinct areas of the country—by examining climate data from 1960 until 2004. Climate change may not have been a hot topic in 1960, but climate changes were certainly happening.
To figure all this out, the researchers relied on total factor productivity or TFP, which is a fairly common economic indicator. In an agricultural context, TFP is a helpful macro indicator; it's basically a measure of output per input, and so tracking that number over time gives you a sense of technological growth. It's not a measure of something simple like, say, crop yield; it's more like a way to measure efficiency. That's useful in this context, because it ends up showing the overall health of an entire sector.
Anyway! What the researchers found is that increases in summer temperature, which have been increasingly common and are commonly associated with climate change, would significantly and negatively affect crops in the Midwest. The primary reason, according to the study, is the reliance of the Midwest on non-irrigated crops, especially cereals like corn and wheat. These are the dominant crops through throughout the central U.S., and without the extensive irrigation seen in, say, California, Midwestern farmers are much less able to cope with heat waves and droughts.
The study even questions the policy choices that led us to this point, specifically mentioning ethanol mandates and the way agribusiness encourages commodity crops. "Whether these policies played a decisive role in inducing the observed regional specialization that promoted that region's increased vulnerability to climatic extremes remains unknown but an intriguingly plausible hypothesis," wrote the study's authors.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Charli Shield
At unsettling times like the coronavirus outbreak, it might feel like things are very much out of your control. Most routines have been thrown into disarray and the future, as far as the experts tell us, is far from certain.
By Elizabeth Henderson
Farmworkers, farmers and their organizations around the country have been singing the same tune for years on the urgent need for immigration reform. That harmony turns to discord as soon as you get down to details on how to get it done, what to include and what compromises you are willing to make. Case in point: the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038), which passed in the House of Representatives on Dec. 11, 2019, by a vote of 260-165. The Senate received the bill the next day and referred it to the Committee on the Judiciary, where it remains. Two hundred and fifty agriculture and labor groups signed on to the United Farm Workers' (UFW) call for support for H.R. 5038. UFW President Arturo Rodriguez rejoiced:
By Julia Conley
A council representing more than 800,000 doctors across the U.S. signed a letter Friday imploring President Donald Trump to reverse his call for businesses to reopen by April 12, warning that the president's flouting of the guidance of public health experts could jeopardize the health of millions of Americans and throw hospitals into even more chaos as they fight the coronavirus pandemic.
By Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner
Over six gallons of water are required to produce one gallon of wine. "Irrigation, sprays, and frost protection all [used in winemaking] require a lot of water," explained winemaker and sommelier Keith Wallace, who's also a professor and the founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia, the largest independent wine school in the U.S. And water waste is just the start of the climate-ruining inefficiencies commonplace in the wine industry. Sustainably speaking, climate change could be problematic for your favorite glass of wine.