After a spring and summer dominated by a nationwide string of extreme weather, experts are warning farmers to prepare for climate change and brace for permanent cycles of unusually bad weather.
While 2011 saw farm incomes and commodity prices reach record highs, it also saw increasingly severe weather blunt many farms’ profitability. Flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers submerged thousands of acres of prime farmland, tornadoes ravaged Missouri and Alabama, hurricanes struck much of the East Coast, and ongoing droughts have caused severe damage to farming operations in the Southwest and Southeast.
Far from being a fluke, many experts are predicting that this sort of weather may be a reoccurring phenomenon. At the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual farm outlook conference, experts warned that farmers would need to change the way they do business in order to survive the upcoming meteorological changes.
While some organizations dispute the charges of global climate change, agricultural scientists are adamant that weather patterns are changing. According to scientists at Monsanto’s water quality and agricultural sustainability department, the surface warming of North American has increased since the 1960s. The increase is the equivalent of moving the Earth 1 million miles closer to the sun.
Some crops, like corn, may see an increased production due to increased heat. However, crops that are sensitive to high temperatures and low humidity could see a drop in their production. In addition, farms in already stressed environments, such as the arid Southwest, may see their production drop. Farmers should be prepared to consider financial tools, such as crop insurance and disaster loans, to ride out the oncoming cycles of bad weather.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer