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Economic Threat to Arkansas From Climate Change

PHOTO: A new report finds farms and property in Arkansas could experience harsh losses from climate change. Photo credit: S. Garton/morguefile.
PHOTO: A new report finds farms and property in Arkansas could experience harsh losses from climate change. Photo credit: S. Garton/morguefile.
July 7, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The agricultural industry in the Midwest is valued at over $135 billion a year. But that economic engine faces increased risk with higher temperatures.

Matt Lewis, director of communications for the Risky Business Project, said his group's new analysis predicted that by the end of the century, climate change could drive down crop yields by as much as 1/7.

"The Grain Belt and Midwest will see expected reductions in crop productivity," said Lewis. "Based on extreme heat, primarily, but also water availability becomes an issue."

He added that weather events are sharply increasing the cost and availability of insurance.

Kevin Smith owns Helena-based Smith Insurance. He said the insurance industry has started adapting to more extreme weather, but it means higher rates.

"We're already seeing that," said Smith. "The next ten years, you're going to see it even more. Rates are going way up, companies are pulling out, and giving you less coverage for more money."

Smith said climate change will be particularly hard on farmers. Huge investments in machinery and irrigation systems can be wiped out by a single storm. And that's on top of all that crops are vulnerable to.

"Probably next to insurance, agriculture is next most likely to take the biggest hits from climate change," predicted Smith. "Because they're so dependent on weather. It can wipe out millions of dollars, and somebody has to pay for that."

Read the report The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States, from the Risky Business Project.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - AR