Global Warming Effects on Agriculture and Forestry

Testimony of Heather S. Cooley and Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith
to the United States Congress

Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming
For the Hearing on Global Warming Effects on Agriculture and Forestry
June 18, 2009

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the effects of climate change on agricultural production in the United States. Our testimony will focus on those impacts related to water resources – a critical connection especially in the western United States. These detailed comments are intended to supplement our oral testimony.

Key Messages:

• Agriculture is a water-intensive industry, using about 70% of the nation’s freshwater resource. As a result, impacts of climate change on water resources will have major consequences for agriculture.

• Rainfed agriculture is especially vulnerable to altered precipitation patterns.

• Surface water supplies will be increasingly out-of-phase with agricultural water demand. Surface runoff is expected to decline during summer months, when agricultural water demand peaks. The impacts of climate change on groundwater resources remain largely unknown; however, recent research suggests they may decline.

• Changes in extreme weather events will have a greater effect on crop production than changes in average conditions.

• Adaptation can substantially reduce the risk of climate change for the agricultural sector. To support adaptation efforts:

o The federal government must support adaptation efforts, including better management of surface and groundwater resources and improvements in water conservation and efficiency.

o The federal government should support outreach to the agricultural community about the impacts of climate change and potential adaptation strategies.

o The federal government should support additional research and development. Specifically, more regional assessments and better weather forecasting are needed. […]

Download the full testimony here