The Agriculture Department established research centers in 2014 to translate climate science into real-world ideas to help farmers and ranchers adapt to a hotter climate. But a tone of skepticism about climate change from the Trump administration has some farmers worried that this research they rely on may now be in jeopardy.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media
The livelihoods of farmers and ranchers are intimately tied to weather and the environment. But they may not be able to depend on research conducted by the government to help them adapt to climate change if the Trump administration follows through on campaign promises to shift federal resources away from studying the climate.
Farmers stand to lose a lot if worst-case climate projections come to pass. They are likely to face extreme swings in temperature and precipitation. Pests and crop diseases will show up more frequently. Heat stress could stunt meat and dairy production by the nation’s cattle herds, costing farmers billions of dollars in lost revenue and forcing food prices to rise.
Given the scope of the problem, the search for novel ways to adapt to a changing climate is driving agricultural research. The new administration in Washington, D.C., however, is attempting to change not just the direction of climate research, but also the tone and rhetoric around the issue.
For more than a decade, the federal government has taken on a large role in directing and funding climate change research, spending more than $11.6 billion on climate research in 2014 — an increase from just $2.4 billion in spending in 1993, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Former President Barack Obama made climate change adaptation and preparation a signature issue, rolling climate goals into policies across the government.