Unpredictable Temperatures, Prolonged Droughts, and Severe Floods: Agriculture and Our Changing Climate
Last summer’s extreme weather turned a difficult growing season into a disaster for farmers already struggling in the face of historically low prices and blocked foreign markets in the trade wars. For Penn Yann farmer Peter Martens, the drought meant a reduction in his “corn yield by about 20 percent” and “the late summer deluges damaged the quality of his wheat.” In Le Roy, Dairy farmer Dale Stein described the aggregation of problems facing farmers:
“You’ll deal with a drought here. You’ll deal with a bad price year. You deal with a major labor issue…It’s a compounded problem this year, and I think it’s got an awful lot of farmers saying I’m done.”
Source: NYT, 8/22/18)
Farmers across the district are working to adapt to
warming temperatures, prolonged droughts, and severe flooding.
I witnessed this first hand when
I checked in on residents in badly-hit parts of the district this past August and saw fields and roads s
ubmerged beneath the floodwaters.
Flooding outside of Horseheads, Chemung County, August 2019
As we head into the spring growing season, the changing climate presents a complex and potentially devastating set of challenges for farmers
Flooding delays planting, damages roots, erodes soil, reduces yield, and contaminates waterways.
Drought increases crop water demand leading to declining yields of rain-fed crops and declining quality of fruit and vegetable crops.
As the number of summer days exceeding 90°F increases,
heat stress will reduce yield for crops like corn, wheat, and oats, while crops like potatoes, cabbage, and apples will become more difficult to grow.
weeds will become more challenging to manage.
Warmer winters will lead to
early blooms and increased
frost risk, devastating vulnerable crops like apples.
Data from the midwest has shown a correlation between warm summer nights and declining yields of corn crops:
Agriculture and Our Changing Climate
This week, the President of the National Farmers Union, Roger Johnson, asked the Senate Committee of Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry to take “serious and immediate action” on climate change:
“Climate change is not a future or hypothetical issue for family farmers and ranchers—they are already suffering its effects every day. Higher average temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, and more frequent and severe natural disasters have added several more layers of uncertainty to the already difficult job of food production. As the climate continues to change, we can only expect the challenges to multiply.”
Tom Reed has consistently blocked legislation addressing our changing climate, most recently voting against H.R. 9, the Climate Action Now Act. I pledge to support policies at the federal, state, and local level to protect our environment and help farmers adapt and survive as our climate changes.