From vulnerability to resilience in agriculture: equity, agroecology, and adaptation to climate change

Authors: Rafter Ferguson*, Union of Concerned Scientists, Marcia DeLonge, Union of Concerned Scientists
Topics: Agricultural Geography, food systems, United States
Keywords: agriculture, farmworkers, resilience, climate change, adaptation, equity, agroecology
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: Download


Climate change is already making significant impacts on agriculture in the USA. Rising temperatures, shifting precipitation patterns, and increasing frequency of extreme weather events, are changing the landscape of food production in the USA and will continue to do so for decades to come. The impacts of climate change are not distributed equally, and are magnified by systemic social and agronomic issues in the farming system. Here we synthesize recent research, including the 4th National Climate Assessment, to integrate issues of social equity and agronomic practice, with an eye toward identifying priorities and points of leverage for future policy supporting a climate-resilient agricultural system. Agronomic factors that magnify the impacts of climate change include, for example, the reduced capacity of degraded soils, bare soils, and simplified landscapes, to buffer the effects of extreme weather. Social factors encompass the systemic vulnerability of workers and communities throughout the agricultural system. Farmers of small and medium sized farms face additional barriers accessing key programs such as crop insurance, disaster relief, technical assistance, etc. Farmworkers have few legal protections and are especially vulnerable to increasing heat stress and disruption of employment by extreme weather, while climate change amplifies existing problems like labor abuses and pesticide exposure. Rural communities in general are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts, and low-income communities, which are disproportionately communities of color and Indigenous peoples, typically bear the brunt of the consequences. Bold policy initiatives are needed to support transformative change and foster a truly resilient agricultural system.

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