By Tom Driscoll, Director of NFU Foundation and Conservation Policy

Climate change presents an enormous threat to farming and food security. A 2015 assessment report conducted by the U.S. Global Change Research Program noted that some models project the number of people at risk of undernourishment could grow by as many as 175 million by 2080 if greenhouse gas emissions are not sufficiently curbed. Significant investments in public and private research are needed to help farmers and food system stakeholders avoid such dire consequences.

One such source of assistance is the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). AFRI supports scientists as they engage in urgent societal and global challenges that interface with food and agriculture, including climate change mitigation and adaptation. Agroclimate science is one designated area of emphasis for AFRI, which includes:

  • Crop and livestock breeding for climate resilience
  • Development of climate resilient agronomic and husbandry practices, such as research conducted at Cornell University that determines precisely how much water stress crops can tolerate before yield and quality are negatively impacted
  • On-farm emission reductions and carbon sequestration, like a research project at the University of Wisconsin that is examining all aspects of the dairy industry to find emissions reductions of 25% by 2020

AFRI’s funding increased for two consecutive years, but the appropriations bill currently under consideration would not increase its budget. As farmers face more disruptions from climate change, adequately funding AFRI and other research endeavors is becoming increasingly important. Farmers should ensure research is a priority in farm bill and appropriations deliberations, and should stay abreast of valuable content and tools derived from such research that may help make their operations more climate resilient.

How has publicly funded research improved your farm operation? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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