Farmers are among the most climate-dependent business owners in the state, and may have the most to lose to climate change impacts. They also may see some opportunities.
That’s why Washington state has convened the Agricultural Working Group on Climate Change Mitigation to explore climate change impacts on agricultural producers. Chad Kruger of WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the university’s Climate Friendly Farming project is co-leader of the new panel.
“Our research on global climate change points to some serious areas of concern for Washington’s agriculture economy,” Kruger said. “The benefits of a longer, warmer growing season may be outweighed by reductions in available water for irrigation.”
The 19-member working group, which is part of the state’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, is comprised of university researchers, agriculture producers, natural resource conservationists and advocates for agriculture.
Over the next four months the panel will explore how climate change will impact growing conditions, crop yields, commodity prices, and input costs among other factors. The panel will also look at the positive and potentially profitable role agriculture can play in sequestering carbon in plants, thereby reducing the impact of emissions from other sources.
Under a proposed regional “cap and trade” system, farmers could generate additional income by selling carbon emission reduction credits to power plants and others required to reduce their carbon emissions.
“Climate change does present some opportunities for our growers,” said WSDA hydrologist Kirk Cook, co-leader of the panel with Kruger. “As a regional or national trading system comes on line, we want our producers to be positioned to generate revenue from these practices and others that can reduce the impact of pollution.”
In October the panel will forward a series of recommendations to the governor’s Climate Action Team, which in turn will develop proposals for submission to the state Legislature.
For more information about the Agricultural Working Group, including meeting schedules and names of the panelists, visit www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange and click on the “Forestry and Agriculture” link on the left side of the page.