June 17, 2009
Few industries will be more affected by climate change than agriculture. Rainfall, temperature, soil conditions, and length of growing season all will be influenced by climate trends, as well as livestock and ecosystem management. In a new report, "Agriculture and the Food System: Adaptation to Climate Change," John M. Antle of Montana State University and an RFF University Fellow suggests that with planning and support, farmers and ranchers can adjust to climate change and continue sustainable operations.
The report is one in a series issued as part of a major RFF project on domestic adaptation policy.
An excerpt from the report:
"The substantial role that the public sector has played in making the complementary investments that led to the success of U.S. agriculture in the 20th century raises a number of questions about appropriate policies in the context of climate change. The justification for public funding of infrastructure, research, and information systems was based on economies of scale as well as the public good aspect of basic research needed to develop agricultural technologies. Although a substantial public role remains in infrastructure, research, and outreach, it has diminished over time as private institutions have become increasingly capable of providing these services."
"A key question for policy is whether climate change justifies an expanded role in these areas or whether markets can stimulate adequate responses to the adjustments that will be required as the climate changes. There seems to be a particularly compelling case for the provision of public information about climate change, potential impacts, and adaptation strategies."
"Agriculture remains an industry with substantial public subsidies to producers of basic grain and fiber commodities, as well as various subsidies and incentives to encourage sustainable land management and to mitigate environmental impacts. Some policies, such as commodity subsidies, create disincentives for farmers to adapt to changing climate and economic conditions, but these subsidies are likely to be under political pressure, both because they increasingly go to large commercial farms and wealthy landowners and because they are incompatible with international trade agreements."