Tag Archive for: Weather

Climate Change and Farming: Let’s Be Part of the Solution!

Author: Anna Bowen | Published on: January 9, 2017

What with rising rainfall in the west, and hotter, drier summers in the east, British farmers place plenty of challenges from global warming, writes Anna Bowen. But there are also positive opportunities for agricultural innovators to adapt their farming systems to changing conditions, make their operations more resilient and sustainable, and make themselves part of the solution.

I think it’s time to change my farming system”, said my client. “A switch from dairy to rice paddies.”

Looking at his sodden fields, it wasn’t hard to imagine.

When you work with farmers, conversations about the weather are inevitable. Their livelihoods are intrinsically linked to the climate, and very often they and their animals are at the mercy of the elements.

As a consultant I work with long-term financial projections and business plans. In light of rising global temperatures it would be foolish to overlook the impact that climate change may have on my dairy farming clients in the dampness of West Wales.

The last decade has seen record-setting wet years for Britain, and the risk of flooding and the problems associated with sodden ground look likely to be an increasing challenge for farmers. The Environment Agency state that precipitation in the West of the country is expected to increase by up to 33%, a significant rise for an area that already experiences some of the highest rainfall in the UK.


Dust Bowl Would Devastate Today’s Crops, Study Finds

Author: Robert Mitchum | Published on: December 20, 2016

A drought on the scale of the legendary Dust Bowl crisis of the 1930s would have similarly destructive effects on U.S. agriculture today, despite technological and agricultural advances, a new study finds. Additionally, warming temperatures could lead to crop losses at the scale of the Dust Bowl, even in normal precipitation years by the mid-21st century, UChicago scientists conclude.

The study, published Dec. 12 in Nature Plants, simulated the effect of from the Dust Bowl era on today’s maize, soy and wheat crops. Authors Michael Glotter and Joshua Elliott of the Center for Robust Decision Making on Climate and Energy Policy at the Computation Institute, examined whether modern agricultural innovations would protect against history repeating itself under similar conditions.

“We expected to find the system much more resilient because 30 percent of production is now irrigated in the United States, and because we’ve abandoned corn production in more severely drought-stricken places such as Oklahoma and west Texas,” said Elliott, a fellow and research scientist at the center and the Computation Institute. “But we found the opposite: The system was just as sensitive to drought and heat as it was in the 1930s.”


Climate Risk, Loss and Damage in North Carolina

Initial damage estimates from Hurricane Matthew in North Carolina are in the billions of dollars. A portion of that damage will be from waterways polluted by dead animals and animal waste from large-scale hog and poultry operations. Many of those operations were located on flood plains, and nearly all were contracted to produce for agribusiness giants like Smithfield and Perdue. Should these companies have seen this coming?

Climate models tell us that the number and severity of climate-related extreme weather events like Hurricane Matthew will increase. As a result, corporations are entering into a new era of climate risk that requires a re-evaluation of business models, production methods and supply chains. Governments are struggling to find the resources to pay for clean-up and re-building when disasters strike. These emerging climate challenges are particularly relevant for agribusiness companies.

The big hog and poultry operations in North Carolina fit almost any definition of climate risk. North Carolina is the second largest hog producing state in the country, with much of the production concentrated in largely African American counties (a legal petition is pending with the EPA’s office of civil rights arguing that the poor regulation of CAFOs in North Carolina discriminates against people of color in rural areas). The proliferation of hog farms and associated manure lagoons prompted a moratorium on new hog operations in the state, passed initially in 1997, but operations that were already in place have been allowed to expand, and the hog moratorium did not extend to poultry. Environmental groups have mapped more than 6,500 CAFOs – a mixture of hog and cattle operations, and an additional 3,900 poultry operations – all in North Carolina.