Climate Column - DroughtBy Tom Driscoll, NFU Director of Conservation Policy and Education

Crops won’t grow without rain, and livestock producers remember the enormous problems experienced with the severe drought in 2012. Drought is frightening for farmers and expensive for consumers.

USDA’s Southern Plains Assessment of Vulnerability and Preliminary Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies for Farmers, Ranchers and Forest Land Owners notes “All rainfed cropping is highly subject to drought,” and that irrigation from surface water resources is also highly vulnerable to drought. Groundwater utilization is far from a perfect solution, since increased pumping accelerates the decline in groundwater levels, driving up energy costs and decreasing the useful life of the aquifer. The Southwest Regional Climate Hub and California Subsidiary Hub Assessment of Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies points out that “Drought and extreme weather affect the market value of fruits and vegetables more than other crops because they have high water content and sales depend on good visual appearance,” meaning drought in that region could have a very serious impact on consumers’ ability to maintain diverse and nutritious diets.

Have you observed increases in dry spells where you live and farm? Share your experience in the comments below. Climate change will increase farmers’ vulnerability to drought across the U.S. Even when actual droughts don’t occur, climate change will affect existing precipitation patterns, surface water and water storage. But farmers can take steps to manage climate change-driven drought risks and reduce the impacts of climate change in the long run. To find out how, check back with NFU’s blog and see what farmers in your area can do in USDA’s regional Vulnerability Assessments.

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