March 21 is National Ag Day. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is thankful for the work Minnesota’s farmers do to put food on our tables. MPCA Commissioner Katrina Kessler and Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen reflected on the theme of National Ag Day 2023 — “Growing a Climate for Tomorrow” — and ways Minnesotans can support the future of Minnesota farms in an opinion editorial for Agweek.
Intense rainfalls, caused by climate change, increase soil erosion, which harms the productivity of topsoil on fields. Warming temperatures encourage invasive species, plant diseases, and pests that are new to Minnesota. Wetter springs have delayed or even prevented planting for many Minnesota farmers in recent years. And extreme weather events like large hail, pounding rains, high winds, and prolonged droughts can devastate a crop season.
It's not just our crops that are struggling. Animal health, growth, and reproduction are also highly sensitive to temperature changes. Higher summer temperatures may lead to increased livestock deaths due to heat stress and lower production of milk from dairy cattle and eggs from poultry. Heat-stressed hogs eat less, and heat may interfere with breeding, gestation, and lactation. According to USDA, rising summer heat costs the American swine industry more than $300 million annually.
Low-or-no till farming, rotating crops, and cover cropping increase soil health and absorb carbon, a greenhouse gas that causes climate change. More farmers are adopting precision agriculture practices, which use technology and data to monitor crop, soil, and animal conditions to improve efficiency and reduce pollution.