USDA Climate Change and U.S. Agriculture - An Assessment of Effects and Adaptation Responses

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a technical report, Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation, Technical Bulletin 1935, in 2012 which details the known climate change effects on U.S. agriculture, and adaptation measures to minimize these impacts. This report is a summary of the technical bulletin, highlighting the major findings, and prevailing and potential adaptation strategies.   

The report begins with a summary of the past and current state of U.S. agriculture, followed by an overview of projected future climate conditions in the country. More detail is given on how climate is affecting U.S. agriculture today, with a focus on the direct effects - temperature, precipitation and CO2 concentration, as well as the indirect effects - like weeds, invasive species, and insects.

This resource was featured in the April 20, 2017, ASAP Newsletter.

"Changes in the climate can have a drastic effect on agriculture and fisheries. More frequent extreme weather events and increased carbon dioxide levels will make it more difficult to grow crops, raise livestock and fish in the same ways and places we are used to."

The U.S. agricultural system is expected to be fairly resilient to climate change in the short term due to the system’s flexibility to engage in adaptive behaviors such as:

  • expansion of irrigated acreage,
  • regional shifts in acreage for specific crops,
  • crop rotations,
  • changes to management decisions such as choice and timing of inputs and cultivation practices, and
  • altered trade patterns compensating for yield changes caused by changing climate patterns.

However, in the longer term, ongoing climate impacts are likely to affect the ability of the agroecosystem to adapt using existing technologies without significant disruptions to elements of the system such as producer welfare, consumer welfare, or the ecosystem services that support - and are affected by - agricultural production.

Common adaptation strategies in use today by U.S. farmers including changing cultivar selection or timing of field operations, and increased use of pesticides to control higher pest pressures.

Climate effects on the agriculture economy have been complicated to analyze - as yields and production costs vary by region, for example, while existing assessment research does not fully capture potential crop-yield effects of climate change, even in the short term. Meanwhile,  climate change has the potential to significantly alter patterns of productivity in the provision of food, feed, fiber, and fuel products worldwide.

 

Publication Date: September 2013

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Resource Types:

  • Assessment

Impacts:

  • Air temperature
  • Economic
  • Invasive species and pests
  • Precipitation changes

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