Family farmers face daily challenges from low prices to battling insect and weed pests but today they are digging deeper to find a new resiliency in their management tactics as they face weather extremes. Heavier rainfall, more total rain, changing growing seasons, warmer night-time temperatures, shifting frost dates, and higher total CO2 levels frame the climate puzzle.
The National Corn Growers Association’s Climate Task Force is working to better understand these developments and conducted its third meeting this week in Chicago. However, the meetings follow months of study and engagement to have a clearer picture of emerging agronomic challenges.
“Attaining profitability and sustainability in tandem are key goals for corn farmers. Changes in climate patterns have short- and long-term implications for farmers who provide feed, food and fuel for the world,” said Keith Alverson, chairman of the Climate Task Force. “This producer-led, multi-disciplinary team is charged with examining climate implications and opportunities for the corn industry. It’s really about being a resilient farmer and being prepared for what Mother Nature presents.”
Although farmers dominate the Task Force, Alverson, a farmer from Chester, South Dakota, notes it also includes outside members representing allied industry, food companies, university scientists, environmental interests and economists.
The key charge of the Task Force is to identify threats and opportunities for corn farmers arising from possible policy or market changes related to climate and greenhouse gas reductions both domestically and internationally.
“The U.S. may have withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accord, but interest remains alive in other quarters as witnessed by the recently surfaced carbon tax in Washington state. We also see a stream of announcements from business and industry related to CO2 reduction goals,” Alverson said. “NCGA has a responsibility to our members to conduct economic analysis to determine financial threats or opportunities stemming from climate market or policy changes.”
NCGA’s work is also focused on identifying educational tools or opportunities that could be used to encourage U.S. corn farmers to access carbon markets and/or adopt carbon-neutral farm practices.
“We have a lot of positive and progressive change underway and it is already reflected through NCGA’s programming related to the Soil Health Partnership, Field to Market, our carbon life cycle assessment, nutrient management planning, production improvements and our work with the North American Climate Smart Agricultural Alliance,” Alverson said.