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Nathan Willcox,
Environment America

New Report: Global Warming Will Cost American Corn Growers Billions

For Immediate Release

Global warming could cost American corn growers $1.4 billion a year, according to a new report by Environment America that is contrary to conventional wisdom that global warming will be good for U.S. agriculture. Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska topped the list for potential damages with the top 10 states averaging $116 million in yearly damages.  Environment America expects these costs to go up unless Congress and the president take decisive action to repower America with clean energy and reduce global warming pollution.

“Corn likes it cool, but global warming is raising temperatures across the nation,” said Environment America Global Warming Advocate Timothy Telleen-Lawton. “Hotter fields will mean lower yields for corn, and eventually, the rest of agriculture.”

Scientists expect that temperature increases due to global warming will hurt corn production. In fact, research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Carnegie Institution shows that temperature changes consistent with global warming are already harming corn production worldwide relative to a world without global warming.  

Environment America pointed out that transitioning to a clean energy economy will help rebuild our economy and stop the worst effects of global warming. Clean energy sources, including wind turbines and distributed generation such as on-site solar panels, can provide farmers an independent source of electricity or income while reducing global warming pollution. Wind developers, for example, are offering $4,000 to $8,000 a year per turbine to farmers that allow them to be installed on their land.

“With clean energy such as wind and solar, agriculture has a huge opportunity to be part of the solution to global warming,” said American Corn Growers Association President Keith Bolin.

Environment America analyzed the expected future impacts of global warming on America’s corn growers. The report, Hotter Fields, Lower Yields, draws on a 2008 study by the United States Climate Change Science Program, a joint project of the United States Department of Agriculture and 12 other federal agencies. The report pairs the government estimates of the relative loss in corn productivity in major U.S. corn-producing areas due to global warming with USDA data on the size of the corn industry to estimate the financial impact from global warming. The analysis considers the combined effect of increasing temperatures and increasing levels of carbon dioxide but assumes that crops get sufficient water and does not include other negative effects of global warming, such as more frequent extreme storms, higher levels of ozone, and the spreading of diseases, pests and weeds. 

The highest annual cost to corn growers from global warming are projected for the following 10 states:

  1. Iowa - $259 million
  2. Illinois - $243 million
  3. Nebraska - $163 million
  4. Minnesota - $135 million
  5. Indiana - $98 million
  6. South Dakota - $63 million
  7. Kansas - $62 million
  8. Ohio - $50 million
  9. Missouri - $46 million
  10. Wisconsin - $41 million

This spring, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will consider a bill answering President Obama’s call for a comprehensive energy plan that addresses the urgent need for job and economic growth and energy independence. The full House is expected to consider the bill this summer. In addition to capping global warming pollution at science-based levels, the American Clean Energy and Security Act would require that the nation obtain 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, like wind and solar power, by 2025. An analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that such a renewable electricity standard would generate $13.5 billion in new income for farmers, ranchers, and rural landowners.

Telleen-Lawton said, “Big Oil, Dirty Coal, and other polluters are fighting to maintain the status quo, but now is the time for change. We need to unleash the power of clean energy to rebuild our economy and solve global warming. Environment America urges Congress to vote for a strong bill that maintains science-based pollution reduction targets and speeds the transition to a clean energy economy.”