Sunday, March 10, 2013

How Does Climate Change Affect Agriculture and Livestock?

By Jessica Armstrong

            Climate change is not only affected by changes in the way we farm crops and the new technologies that we develop, but climate change can also be devastating to agriculture. With our climate changing at a much more dramatic pace the USDA has issued a statement to farmers, “Climate change is real, climate change is the result of human action, and climate change poses unprecedented challenges to U.S. agriculture (2).”
            Challenges with extreme weather, natural disasters, and carbon emissions have threatened crop quality and farmers ability to make profit. Agriculture according to the EPA contributes at least $200 billion to the U.S. economy every year. As temperature raise crops can grow more quickly, but this does also lead to a smaller harvest. Warmer temperatures also increase frequency of weeds and pests that can destroy or cost farmers enormous amounts of money. The increase in weeds alone costs $11 billion a year to control, which will only get worse as our temperatures increase (1). 
            Livestock in America is particularly important; American’s consume over 36 million tons of meat per year (3). Weather such as an increase in temperatures can stress animals causing an increased vulnerability to disease, infertility, and a decrease in production of milk or eggs (3).  Heat waves cause thousands of deaths in livestock each year; heat can also causes an increase in pests that diminish animal’s health that again attributes of the death of livestock.
            Farmers are no longer able to ignore nor deny the existence of climate change. Climate change is a painfully obvious and cumbersome reality of their industry, if farmers hope to have productive crops and livestock they will have to adapt to their changing surroundings. Adaptations such as growing crops that are suitable to their specific climate and providing livestock with nutrient dense food will help to combat negative consequences from a changing climate.

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