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“How USDA climate change denial threatens the South”

From 2012 to 2018 I worked as a grant-funded agricultural climatologist on USDA-funded projects looking at the impacts of the changing climate on agriculture in the Southeast. There are a lot of negative impacts that are expected in the future due to warmer temperatures (especially nighttime temperatures), higher humidity, and more frequent floods and droughts, but there are also opportunities for farmers in longer growing seasons, more potential crops to try, and our relative wealth of water compared to other agricultural areas in the US. Ag producers are already taking advantage of management practices such as smart irrigation, using cover crops to maintain soil moisture and reduce erosion, and changing crop varieties to take advantage of more growing degree days–this should result in higher yields, more diverse economic income streams, and healthier soil in the future.

But now a lot of research like mine is being hidden by the USDA’s current policy of not releasing the results of many people’s research projects on how weather and climate are affecting agriculture in the Southeast now and how it will be affected in the future. It’s a great loss to farmers, who need every bit of knowledge they can to make the best decisions for how to run their farms. Here is an article from Facing South which describes some of the other losses Southeastern farmers are taking on by not having the best information to use in managing their farms (that they already paid for through their taxes).

A FEMA photo taken Oct. 14 showing flooded farmland in Kinston, North Carolina. Photograph by Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA