Regardless of how you feel about climate change, it’s pretty clear that the Trump administration has been less concerned about it than the Obama administration was (to put it mildly). And yet, when the USDA (under the executive branch, mind you) do make an assessment, the findings still aren’t pretty.
In a report released this week from the USDA’s Economic Research Service on “Climate Change and Agricultural Risk Management Into the 21st Century” — used to assess potential financial risk to the federal government due to the cost of programs like the Federal Crop Insurance Program — the authors determined, “All climate scenarios considered suggest that climate change would lower domestic production of corn, soybeans, and wheat relative to a future scenario with climate identical to that of the past three decades. All else equal, this implies that prices would be higher than they would otherwise, which implies higher premiums and, consequently, higher subsidies.”
As the Wall Street Journal points out, for corn and soybeans, that “lower domestic production” could be a decline of up to 80 percent in the next 60 years, ballooning the cost of crop insurance to $7.6 billion per year for corn and $3.3 billion for soybeans compared to the $300 million spent so far this year.
And yet, the study’s authors regularly use the term “would,” leaving open the vague possibility of a world without climate change — a common tactic throughout the 55-page report. However, in a bit of a “follow the money” moment, the report’s conclusion moves away from these kinds of broad hypotheticals to a more direct admission that climate change is occurring. “Absent changes to program design, we find that the cost of one Federal agricultural risk management program, the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP), is likely to increase, driven by a combination of increasing overall variability of prices and yields, and higher prices driven by lower supply,” the paper states. “Lower supply is due to yield changes that are imperfectly offset by acreage changes, driven by weather that is projected to be less favorable to field crops than a future without climate change, on average, over most of the United States.”
So there you have it: This report finds that the farming industry is headed towards a future where it’s more expensive to Americans in two ways, both as consumers and as taxpayers. If only there was something we could do to change that outcome…