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February 24, 16

Contact: Adam Pimley, 406-579-6524

Lyndsay Bruno, Montana Farmers Union: 406-452-6406

                                                                                                                                 

                                                                                                                         

                                                                                                            Montana Farmers Union Report:

                      Climate Change Could Cost Montana Agriculture Industry almost 25,000 jobs and $726 million over the next 50 years

 

GREAT FALLS, MT– According to an eye-opening new report released today by Montana Farmers Union, Montana’s robust agriculture economy could take a big hit from changes in our climate.  The report, titled The Impacts of Climate Change on Montana’s Agriculture Economy was co-authored by renowned Montana economist Dr. Thomas Power and highlights the serious economic threats faced by Montana’s farmers and ranchers as our average temperatures continue to rise and growing conditions change.

While several studies and reports have examined how warming temperatures will impact Montana crop & cattle production, this is the first time economic impacts from those changes have been examined.“2015 was a big year for Montana agriculture.  Production was up 7% over 2014 levels and toped $5.2 billion in economic impact for the first time ever,” said Chris Christiaens, Montana Farmers Union Legislative Director.  “Montana Farmers Union is committed to ensuring our agriculture industry remains robust, even in the face of serious challenges from changes in our climate.”

U.S. Senator and organic farmer Jon Tester said, “as a farmer I’ve seen the impacts of climate change firsthand.  The bizarre changes in weather over the past 20 years are unlike anything I’ve experienced on the farm.  The negative impacts on agriculture are undeniable and to sit back and do nothing is irresponsible.”

“The report is a “business-as-usual” look at the numerous challenges Montana farmers and ranchers will face as warming temperatures brought on or made worse by the expected 4-5 degree average temperature increase,” said co-author Tom Power, University of Montana Research Professor and Professor Emeritus. “We project a 20 percent drop in rangeland cattle production and a 25 percent decline in grain production by 2055.”

“Statewide, we’re looking at 5 to 15 additional days each year when the temperature rises above 95 degrees, couple that with an expected 5-10% less rain in the summer and you have a growing season that looks very different than the one we enjoy today,” said co-author Donovan Power. “And in winter, we expect to see 20-40 fewer days below freezing.  The increased heat coupled with less moisture in the summer brings the potential for new weeds and pests to thrive.”

The report found that Montana’s grain production will be affected by changing weather patterns and shifting growing seasons, reduced winter snowpack and summer rainfall, hotter spring and summer days and nights, and expanding ranges of weeds and pests, reducing crop yields by as much as 25% and costing farmers almost 12,500 jobs and $372 million in earnings.

Cattle production will be similarly impacted.  Water shortages, increased temperature, and increased concentrations of CO2 will make grass and hay less digestible and nutritious to livestock. This, along with increased competition from weeds, is predicted to reduce the productivity of the rangeland cattle industry by 20%, costing ranchers just over 12,000 jobs and $364 million in earnings.

 Erik Somerfeld, who grows wheat, malt barley and hay on the family farm near Power, Montana, said, “It’s no secret to farmers that things are changing.  We see it in every season. We’re planting at least 2 weeks earlier than we did 10 years ago, and we’re not getting the early and mid-summer moisture that crops like malt barley need.”

This report is part of Montana Farmers Union’s ongoing climate change education program, which aims to help Montana farmers and ranchers continue producing high quality agriculture products, even as climate impacts such as changes to growing seasons, availability of water and changes in weed and pest ranges.

Montana Department of Agriculture Director Ron de Yong said, “It’s important for our industry to review climate information and reports like this one to help make decisions from policy to practices in the field going forward. We look forward to continued research on climate change, it’s impacts, and adaptation strategies for agriculture.”

The Montana Farmers Union is a statewide, grassroots organization celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. Through those years MFU has worked for strong family farms and ranches, has advocated for the members’ policies at the state and federal level, has worked to support strong producer cooperatives, and has provided education for all ages.

Click here to view the full report: FINAL_Impact_Climate_Change_MT_Ag_Econ_Power_Consulting_2-24-2016

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