• Glen Jenkins

    The 2009 article from the Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics is titled, “U.S. Agricultural Producer Perceptions of Climate Change”. This information was their “perceptions” from 2009. That leads one to wonder what their “perceptions” would be in 2013. After four years of drought and high temperatures their “perceptions” may have changed. This study goes on to say, “ the number of producers without any strong opinion cannot be ignored (21-31%). So, one fifth to one third of the people surveyed had no strong opinion, which is a significant number to discount.

    Their conclusion made these three points:

    • First, climate change is a gradual process with effects that are obscured by random weather events and cyclical climate patterns so that farmers are more skeptical about whether they are observing its effects (Weber, 1997).

    • Second, it appears that farmers with more assets invested in farming tend to be skeptical about the science of climate change but are likely to believe that normal weather explains recent climate changes. One wonders whether this skepticism about climate science provides a screen for those with a lot more at stake if
    mitigation policies were implemented such as a cap-and-trade policy.

    • The current research is only an initial step in understanding farmers’ perceptions about climate change and the possible strategies to implement climate mitigation/adaptation policies.

    The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI) tells us these are the climate challenges we know farmers in Wisconsin will face:

    • For dairy cows, the best temperature range is between 32°F and 68°F,5 with any temperature above that potentially leading to heat stress. Heat stress can have significant impacts on farm economics, including food intake, milk production, and reproduction and death rates of dairy cows.

    • Prolonged drought causes aflatoxin mold on corn. Aflatoxins are most harmful to children and they can cause cancer. As a result of the drought last summer, milk and cheese had to be tested for aflatoxins in Iowa. That could easily become a problem in Wisconsin.

    • Dairy farmers in Minnesota and Wisconsin have lost nearly 2 million acres of alfalfa to the long, icy winter (2012-13). The protein-rich alfalfa is an important food source for their cows, and it normally emerges after winter. But last year’s drought weakened the plants and the hard winter killed many of them. Farmers normally can harvest three or four cuttings of alfalfa in a normal summer. But this year, farmers who have to replant will be lucky if they get one or two — so they’re facing a short-term shortage and potential long-term problem should they be unable to replant.

    • Perhaps no other sector of the economy is more sensitive to climate than cropland. In 2012, record warm spring temperatures followed by a late spring frost decimated cherry crops, and severe drought conditions pushed much of Wisconsin’s corn crop past the point of return.

    • Changing conditions could bring new weeds and pests, and uncertain weather patterns may threaten the productivity of crops critical to Wisconsin’s economy.

    • Indeed, crop insurance losses in Wisconsin have been on the rise. Wisconsin was in the top 20 states suffering crop losses in 2012. Wisconsin’s crop insurance losses peaked during the heavy flooding year of 2008, at $258 million.

    Monsanto scientist David Gustafson writes that while our agricultural systems can adapt to the types of changes expected through 2050, “Beyond that time, modeling suggests that crop productivity in all regions could begin to be harmed by higher temperatures predicted for that period … unless successful greenhouse gas mitigation measures are implemented soon.”

    Businesses, farmers and citizens can no longer wait to deal with the issue of Global Climate Change-it is here and it is real. The Citizens Climate Lobby offers the solution of a Carbon Tax and Dividend to reduce and replace the use of fossil fuels. This is a fair and balanced approach to begin to effectively eliminate our carbon (CO2) emissions. Find out how you can get involved by going to their website at: citizensclimatelobby.org.

  • Lynn

    The greatest challenges farmers will have in the future will be soil depletion, aqua fir depletion and climate change. If it makes you feel better, global warming. If that bothers you– then how about “fluctuations in weather patterns”. The time for the debate on weather this is happening or not should end. Smart farmers are already trying to best prepare for the future and adaptations that may help in farming.
    Mother nature always bats last, in spite of mens best intentions to outsmart her.