The Agriculture Working Group will operate to produce and share adaptation strategies for Wisconsin’s diverse agricultural industries with Wisconsin scientists, policy makers, interest groups and citizens. These strategies will be generated collaboratively through applied research and outreach that addresses the changing needs of agricultural producers, supporting agricultural industries, and the public policy process. The Agriculture Working Group will actively engage and collaborate with researchers, specialists from government and nonprofit entities, and the agricultural industry itself.
The mission of the Agriculture Working Group is to generate science-based adaptation strategies for Wisconsin’s diverse agricultural systems. Besides the farm community, this process will include Wisconsin scientists, policy makers, interest groups and citizens. The adaptation strategies will have to be developed in a relatively short time frame, address a broad range of agricultural subject areas, and change as new information becomes available. These strategies will be produced through applied research and communication of all involved in this collaboration.
The working group will be responsible for the delivery of the following:
It is highly unlikely that one or two core adaptation strategies can be developed for Wisconsin agriculture. This is because of the differential impacts of climate change across the state, and the significant diversity of our agricultural system. Agriculture has been a critical dimension of Wisconsin from early settlement and the logging era, through industrialization, and remains an important economic, social and cultural component of Wisconsin as we enter the Information Age.
This importance is reflected in the fact that there are approximately 78,000 farms in Wisconsin that had cash receipts totaling $9.89 billion in 2008 of which approximately two-thirds came from livestock, dairy, and poultry. Crops (e.g., corn, soybeans) and vegetable and horticultural crops made up much of the remainder. Our agricultural systems occupy a little over 15 million of the approximate 42 million acres in the state although the average size of a farm is only a modest 194 acres.
As would be expected, the Dairy State ranks first nationally in cheese production, and second for milk and butter production. Yet Wisconsin is also second in milk cows, oats, carrots, and sweet corn used in processing. It remains the national leader in processed snap beans, cranberries, corn for silage, mink pelts and milk goats. It is also among the top five states for important agricultural commodities such as potatoes, maple syrup, mint for oil, and cucumbers for pickles. Further indications of the diversity of our agriculture is found in the fact that Wisconsin is 9th in trout (sold 12” or larger), corn for grain, and cabbage for fresh market. Other agricultural products such as cherries, ginseng, Christmas trees, and pumpkins help define rural Wisconsin along with an increasing number of award-winning craft cheeses being produced in the state.
Over half of the farms in Wisconsin are under 100 acres in size, and only eight percent are 500 acres or larger. As would be expected, the majority of these farms (54.8%) have minimal farm sales (less than $9,999), while roughly a little over a quarter (28.1%) are of a commercial size where farm sales were at least $50,000 in 2007. The vast majority (86.8%) of our farms are sole proprietorship (individual or family), but just under half (47.2%) list farming as their primary occupation. In sum, the economic and social composition of Wisconsin agriculture is very diverse creating a need for adaptation strategies that are appropriate to local conditions.
The diversity in the social and economic characteristics of Wisconsin agriculture is matched by the diversity of the biophysical setting where these agricultural processes occur. The south-central part of Wisconsin is in the Central Lowland Province of the Interior Plains. This area is characterized by gently sloping ground moraines, lake plains, outwash plains, drumlin fields, end moraines, flood plains, swamps, and marshes. The soils are derived from glacial drift and are generally very deep, well drained, and loamy. The majority of this area is in cropland with a large proportion in cash grains. Immediately
north of this are the Central Sands. This area is approximately 3,400 square miles in size, and is considered part of the Wisconsin Driftless Section of the Central Lowland Province of the Interior Plains. It is characterized by outwash and glacial lacustrine sand from the more recent Wisconsin Glaciation, and almost half of the area was covered by Glacial Lake Wisconsin. Soils are dominantly Entisols, Alfisols, Histosols, and Spodosols. Much of this area is forestland with both lumber and pulp production with much of the rest used mainly for cash-grain crops, dairy farms, livestock grazing, irrigated vegetables, Christmas trees, or cranberries. To the west of this region is the Wisconsin Driftless Section of the Central Lowland Province of the Interior Plains, or as it is more commonly known, the “Driftless Area” of Wisconsin. The geology is characterized by both sandstone and limestone that creates a complex, but scenic landscape. Most of it is in agriculture with woodlots on the steeper slopes and cropland in the valley floors and ridge tops. The area of Wisconsin bordering on Lake Michigan is considered part of the Eastern Lake Section of the Central Lowland Province of the Interior Plains. The area is characterized by nearly level to rolling till plains, lake plains, and outwash plains mixed with drumlin fields, bedrock-controlled moraines, lake terraces, dunes, swamps, and marshes. Soils are Alfisols, Histosols, and Spodosols throughout much of the area with both cash grains and pasture being dominant land uses.
These tables list potential impacts on Wisconsin agriculture. These lists serve as a starting point for the conversation of how agricultural production could be affected by the changing climate.
Table 1: Positive Impacts on Agriculture
Table 2: Negative Impacts on Agriculture
Table 3: Indirect Impacts on Agriculture
Tables 1-3 were developed by Dan Looker of Successful Farming magazine.
Each of the different biophysical and ecological regions of Wisconsin produces the commodities and products listed in the Wisconsin’s Agricultural Diversity section, but often with different techniques and management strategies. Wisconsin farmers have adjusted production strategies to the often-unique agroecological areas of the state where they farm. This long-standing experience with adaptation will assist in the response to climate change, but will also challenge WICCI in that uniform, statewide strategies are unlikely.
The impacts of climate change on Wisconsin agriculture will occur through both direct and indirect processes. Direct impacts will be those that occur, in general, because of changes in temperature and precipitation. The qualification is added because when those changes manifest themselves within agricultural cycles will determine the nature of the impact.
The Agriculture Working Group will analyze the products from the Climate Working Group to understand the how climate change is going to manifest itself around the state. With that information we must begin to determine
In other words, adaptation strategies in the Kickapoo River Valley will be different from those in the farming areas outside of Janesville.
To undertake these site-specific assessments and design appropriate adaptation strategies, the Agriculture Working Group must foster the participatory involvement with critical stakeholders:
Due to the complex nature of Wisconsin’s agriculture, collaborations with these diverse groups will be the focus of the Agriculture Working Group’s strategy to help Wisconsin’s farmers adapt to a changing climate.
Please e-mail Chris Kucharik for any questions or comments related to how climate change will affect Wisconsin agriculture.