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Taxpayers subsidize crop insurance for farmers, and the expense is predicted to soar by mid-century as the climate changes. (File: Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media)
Taxpayers subsidize crop insurance for farmers, and the expense is predicted to soar by mid-century as the climate changes. (File: Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media)

Climate change could double losses to crops and property by the year 2100 according to a recent report from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office. When farmers lose more crops, it costs taxpayers more to subsidize their crop insurance.

Chris Anderson, assistant director of Iowa State University’s Climate Science Program, says farmers can work to adapt to wetter springs and hotter summers. Such weather events, which have been considered anomalies in the early 2000s, are likely to become the norm by mid-century. But he says farmers will have to weigh the costs of building up resilience to a changing climate against other farm expenses.

“That’s where this thinking has to happen,” Anderson said, “is understanding how to be creative about funding those climate adaptation measures.”

According to farmer Ann Knowles, turkeys can change the color of their waddles at a moments notice, flushing from pale pink to candy-apple red. (Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media)
According to farmer Ann Knowles, turkeys can change the color of their waddles at a moments notice, flushing from pale pink to candy-apple red. (Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media)

Farmers raised fewer turkeys this year than they have in the past three decades - about 235 million gobblers, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ann Knowles raised 70 broad breasted bronze and white turkeys on her small farm in western Illinois.

She coops up the plump birds at night to guard against predators, but lets them roam freely during the day.

“They get to strut. And they chase in bugs,” Knowles said. “So I think their little dinky brains are probably pretty happy.”

Specialty crop farms, like orchards, rely heavily on migrant labor to hand pick fruit. (Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)
Specialty crop farms, like orchards, rely heavily on migrant labor to hand pick fruit. (Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)

In the debate over immigration reform, farm and ranch groups have been among those calling for change the loudest, and most frequently. But after President Obama announced changes to the immigration system, the response from the agriculture industry so far has been mixed.

In an announcement Thursday, Obama detailed how his actions will delay the deportation of the undocumented parents of children in the country legally. The changes also give protections to any children who were brought to this country illegally before 2010. About 5 million people in the country without documentation will be affected.

Out of that 5 million people, upwards of 250,000 work on farms and ranches, according to a release from the United Farm Workers, one of the largest farm worker unions in the country with deep roots in activism. In its reaction, UFW took an optimistic tone.

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