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Published May 01, 2009, 01:03 PM

Report: Global warming will cost $135 million for Minnesota corn

Global warming could cost corn growers in Minnesota $135 million a year, according to a new report by Environment Minnesota. Minnesota ranks 4th highest in damage estimates. Nationwide the damages to America’s No. 1 crop total more than $1.4 billion annually.

Global warming could cost corn growers in Minnesota $135 million a year, according to a new report by Environment Minnesota. Minnesota ranks 4th highest in damage estimates. Nationwide the damages to America’s No. 1 crop total more than $1.4 billion annually.

Environment Minnesota expects these costs to go up unless Congress and the president take decisive action to repower America with clean energy and reduce global warming pollution.

“Corn likes it cool, but global warming is raising temperatures in Minnesota and across the nation,” said Environment Minnesota Advocate Monique Sullivan. “Hotter fields will mean lower yields for corn, and eventually, the rest of agriculture.”

Despite conventional wisdom that global warming is good for agriculture in the United States, scientists expect that temperature increases due to global warming will hurt corn production. In fact, research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Carnegie Institution shows that temperature changes consistent with global warming are already harming corn production worldwide relative to a world without global warming.

Environment Minnesota pointed out that transitioning to a clean energy economy will help rebuild our economy and stop the worst effects of global warming.

“Minnesota farmers facing reduced yields due to rising temperatures will also face a growing responsibility to feed the state, the nation and the world’s families, while turning a profit on their farms” said Doug Peterson, President of the Minnesota Farmers Union. “We must address the issue of climate change so that production to meet both food and fuel needs can be met. In facing these challenges, time is of the essence.”

Clean energy sources, including wind turbines and distributed generation

such as on-site solar panels, can provide farmers an independent source of electricity or income while reducing global warming pollution. Wind developers, for example, are offering $4,000 to $8,000 a year per turbine to farmers that allow them to be installed on their land.

“With clean energy such as wind and solar, agriculture has a huge opportunity to be part of the solution to global warming,” added American Corn Growers Association President Keith Bolin.

With the report, Hotter Fields, Lower Yields, Environment Minnesota analyzed the expected future impacts of global warming on America’s corn growers. The analysis draws on a 2008 study by the United States Climate Change Science Program, a joint project of the United States Department of Agriculture and 12 other federal agencies.

The report pairs the government estimates of the relative loss in corn productivity in major U.S. corn-producing areas due to global warming with USDA data on the size of the corn industry to estimate the financial impact from global warming. The analysis considers the combined effect of increasing temperatures and increasing levels of carbon dioxide but assumes that crops get sufficient water and does not include other negative effects of global warming, such as more frequent extreme storms, higher levels of ozone, and the spreading of diseases, pests and weeds.

This spring, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is considering a bill answering President Obama’s call for comprehensive clean energy and global warming legislation, and the full House is expected to consider the bill this summer.

In addition to capping global warming pollution at science-based levels, the American Clean Energy and Security Act would require that the nation obtain 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, like wind and solar power, by 2025. An analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that such a renewable electricity standard would generate $13.5 billion in new income for farmers, ranchers, and rural landowners.

Despite the risk to Minnesota farmers, the Minnesota Legislature has stalled in its efforts to address greenhouse gas emissions from the major sources in Minnesota — including the industrial and transportation sectors.

Sullivan said, “Polluters are fighting to maintain the status quo, but now is the time for change. We need to unleash the power of clean energy to rebuild our economy and solve global warming.”

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