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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Agricultural Adaptation in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has examined the potential impacts of both climate change and adaptation on the U.S. agricultural sector. Uncertainty in future climate leads to uncertainty in impacts, with net returns to crop farmers ranging from a gain of $3.6 billion to a loss of $1.5 billion per year. Pests may reduce these returns by an additional $1.5 billion to $3.0 billion. Adaptation efforts can offset some of these losses, but those adaptation efforts generate adverse environmental externalities.

Global climate models predict increases over time in average temperature worldwide, with signifi cant impacts on local patterns of temperature and precipitation. The extent to which such changes present a risk to food supplies, farmer livelihoods, and rural communities depends in part on the direction, magnitude, and rate of such changes, but equally importantly on the ability of the agricultural sector to adapt to changing patterns of yield and productivity, production cost, and resource availability. Study findings suggest that, while impacts are highly sensitive to uncertain climate projections, farmers have considerable fl exibility to adapt to changes in local weather, resource conditions, and price signals by adjusting crops, rotations, and production practices. Such adaptation, using existing crop production technologies, can partially mitigate the impacts of climate change on national agricultural markets. Adaptive redistribution of production, however, may have significant implications for both regional land use and environmental quality.

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