Agriculture and the Food System: Adaptation to Climate Change

This report addresses the potential impacts of climate change on agriculture in the U.S., and the potential for the agricultural sector to adapt to these impacts. After presenting key features of the U.S. agriculture sector, biophysical and economic vulnerabilities of agriculture and the food system are identified. A discussion of public policy in agriculture and adaptation is followed by suggestions for additional research.

The issue brief first provides an overview of key features of U.S. agriculture and food sectors, and gives perspective on agriculture in the U.S. economy. For instance, the author notes that while production agriculture represents less than 2 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), transportation, processing, and distribution of food represents more than 10 percent of GDP.

Biophysical (e.g. soil, livestock) and economic impacts of climate change on the agriculture sector are summarized, including findings and limitations of recent modeling studies. These impacts include the effects of sea-level rise on transportation infrastructure, changes in the design and location of storage facilities, and changes in the range and type of food pathogens that must be managed.

Section 4 discusses vulnerabilities to both the agriculture and food sectors, including ecosystem services, food quality and safety, market infrastructure, and food processing and distribution. Remaining sections discuss individual and institutional barriers to adaptation, the role for public policy, and areas for additional research.

The review finds suggests that, despite substantial research on climate change impacts, as of 2009 relatively little research had addressed the likely costs of adaptation in the agricultural sector or on appropriate policies to facilitate adaptation. A 2010 follow up report also written by John Antle - "Adaptation of Agriculture and the Food System to Climate Change: Policy Issues," http://www.rff.org/files/sharepoint/WorkImages/Download/RFF-IB-10-03.pdf summarizes the findings of this 2009 longer report, and then addresses the policy implications of these findings.

 

 

 

 

 

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Publication Date: June 2009

Author or Affiliated User:

  • John M. Antle

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Resource Types:

  • Assessment

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