Iowa Public Television


USDA Report on Climate Change

posted on May 30, 2008

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. Several reports this week offered a glimmer of hope for the struggling U.S. economy.

The Commerce Department revised its assessment of 1st quarter Gross Domestic Product to nearly one percent. While that may not sound like much of a gain, it represents a 50 percent increase of the original tally.

The government also reported that orders to U.S. factories for durable goods fell by 0.5 percent in April, reflecting steep declines in commercial aircraft and auto sales. But take out the volatile transportation sector and orders actually rose 2.5 percent, marking the largest gain in nine months.

Sales of new homes rose in April for the first time in six months although the numbers still represent the lowest activity in 17 years.

Record fuel prices continue to weigh heavily on consumers. The national average gasoline price eclipsed $3.96 a gallon on Friday, and is on pace to hit $4 early next week.

But even as motorists lament the PRICE of gasoline, others are worried about the EFFECT OF ITS CONSUMPTION on the environment. And if recent reports are any indication, the Agriculture Department is becoming concerned about climate change.

USDA Report on Climate Change The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report this week warning climate change will affect the country's crops and livestock. The report was prepared compiled by 38 scientists who compiled existing studies to outline several climate-related problems farmers may face in coming seasons.

While the report focuses on the next 25 to 50 years, the researchers say climate change is already affecting U.S. water resources, agriculture, land resources, and biodiversity, and will continue to do so.

Many U.S. crops and livestock varieties are grown in diverse climates, regions and soils. According to the report, weather and climate characteristics such as temperature, precipitation, carbon dioxide and water availability directly impact the health and well-being of plants and livestock, as well as pasture and rangeland production.

Some of the main concerns listed include warming temperatures, which are predicted to reduce the production of corn and other key crops. USDA cautions that weeds may migrate northward in the U.S., causing crop diseases to increase as spring comes earlier and winters are warmer.

The report says increased temperatures may cause plants to grow faster. The fast growth can stunt the plants and harm them during critical periods, such as pollination. For livestock farmers, increased temperature in warm regions may REDUCE feed intake, animal gain, milk production and reproduction. Meanwhile, it could INCREASE disease susceptibility and mortality.

The USDA report claims climate change is affecting precipitation, altering rainfall patterns nationwide. According to the study, many parts of the U.S. have had more rainfall and fewer droughts over the past century. However, in the West and Southwest regions of the country, the reverse has occurred.

On a positive note, the report says Midwestern soybean farmers might have an INCREASE in their harvests as climate change pushes the region closer to the plant's optimal growing temperature.

USDA claims the report is a collection of observations rather than solutions, hoping the information will provide the nation's farmers and ranchers with insight into climate change.

Tags: agriculture climate change global warming news pollution USDA