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How climate change is changing Michigan’s agricultural industry

red tractor sitting on a green field with trees in background
Matthew T Rader
Michigan farmers are experiencing climate change firsthand and having to adjust what and how they farm.



Climate change is affecting the world in a lot of ways. The planet is warming, more rain is falling. There are colder winters, and warmer summers. And all of this is having a profound effect on agriculture.

Marci Baranski is a climate change specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She helped write a fact sheet about the effect of climate change and field crop agriculture while working with MSU Extension.


According to Baranski, climate change is causing serious issues for farmers, but many farming practices also harm the environment.


“In the United States, agriculture contributes about nine percent of our greenhouse gas emissions,” Barnaski explained. 


These emissions come from all sorts of agricultural practices. Fertilizers and cow manure release the most greenhouse gas, but soil tilling and even the burps of sheep and cows contribute to the problem.


Baranski says recent national climate assessments show predictions for more erratic precipitation ranging from floods to droughts, which are likely to cause serious problems for farmers.


Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agribusiness Association, has seen these problems firsthand. He interacts with farmers across the political spectrum, some of whom don’t believe climate change is caused by humans.


But he says they can all agree the climate is causing problems for farmers.


“The effects of climate change are being felt every day by producers of virtually every crop across the state of Michigan, and the country for that matter,” Byrum said.


Byrum pointed to the pressures of new insects, disease, and weeds. He says farmers are “seeing all sorts of things that we haven’t seen before.”


Farmers have had to adjust. They’re planting different varieties, repurposing some crops, and giving up on others. And a lot of them are working to manage climate change.


“They are adopting new practices. It’s difficult in some cases, but I think everybody realizes we have to make some changes in what we do,” Byrum said.

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