As harvest season quickly approaches, climate change continues to have serious and lasting effects on Wisconsin’s agriculture and farming systems.
Wisconsin is known for its agriculture, and its location in the Midwest earns a reputation for holding fields of corn as far as the eye can see. Its farming is essential to the United States' food supply. Wisconsin is the largest producer of snap beans, cheese, dry whey and corn for silage, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The state also boasts a fishing industry worth $2 billion a year.
The adverse effects of climate change have started to affect the yearly harvest in Wisconsin. According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, unpredictable and volatile weather — including heavier rainfall and a declining snow cover — is stressing farms. It is now harder for farmers to access parts of their fields to adequately tend to their crops in addition to increased risk of flooding and plant disease. Furthermore, crops that are more sensitive to changes in weather and climate, such as wild rice, are in jeopardy.
In addition to threats of crop damage, climate change will also impact fish in Wisconsin. As temperatures of lakes and streams rise, certain species of fish will fare better than others, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Species like largemouth bass and bluegill, which thrive in warmer water temperatures, will adjust to rising temperatures better than fish that live in cooler water temperatures, like brown and brook trout. If waterways continue to warm on this trajectory, experts predict that trout habitats will decline by 32% for brown trout and by 68% for brook trout by 2050.
This concerning series of events will only worsen if no action is taken to improve the situation. It threatens to affect not only Wisconsin, but also the rest of the United States and the structure of its agricultural system.
Currently, Wisconsin produces 60% of the U.S.'s cranberries and houses the most dairy farms per state. In total, Wisconsin’s agriculture generates $104.8 billion to the state’s economy. If crops are affected by climate change, many of the products that Wisconsin exports to areas around the United States and worldwide will no longer be as readily available. This will result in a decrease in profits for farmers, which in turn affect their livelihoods as the United States and other countries turn to different areas where they can source their food and goods supply.
Apart from negative effects on the economy, a shortage of food and goods threatens our livelihoods as humans. We depend on these agriculture systems and the Midwest as a whole to sustain our nation and the health of its people. If these agricultural systems are impaired, it is likely that we will experience food shortages, which affects all of us.
Climate change is not an issue that only affects certain people, nor can it be fixed by only a small minority. We all play a role in mitigating the effects of climate change, and that is why we need to work together to achieve progress.
It is up to governments at both state and national levels to enact policy that prevents greenhouse gas emissions and pollution as well as ensure that natural areas and resources are protected. Citizens must be mindful of the causes of these climate effects, as well as petitioning and voting for candidates that promise to give the climate change issue the importance it needs. Citizens can recycle, buy second hand clothes and buy groceries from local farmers to reduce their carbon footprint to ensure less discarded materials end up in landfills.
Together, we can help reverse this damage and keep the agricultural backbone of the United States intact.
Zayna Quraishi is a staff writer and a sophomore studying journalism and information science. Do you agree that climate change is affecting Wisconsin's agriculture? Send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org