Report charts how Pacific Northwest may be influenced


Capital Press

Some Washington state farmers could face changes in how they operate if climate change predictions are accurate, a new report says.

The Washington Department of Ecology recently released a report on its climate change response strategy.

Chad Kruger, director of Washington State University's Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, said the Pacific Northwest appears to be in good shape compared to other regions, but there will still be severe impacts in some locations.

"These kinds of things that good producers would be wanting to invest in anyway, climate is essentially going to intensify the need to do that," he said.

Report author Hedia Adelsman, executive policy advisor for the director's office for the department, said many options in the report are considered "no-regret strategies" even if climate change doesn't materialize to the level predicted.

The report encourages increased grower involvement, but Adelsman doesn't foresee more regulations on farmers.

"I think we have all the regulations already (that) we need," she said. "A lot of organizations are working to provide the farmer the tools he or she could use."

Report findings include:

* The Yakima Basin reservoir system will be less able to supply water to all users, especially newer water rights holders.

* Average apple and cherry yields are likely to decline 20 to 25 percent by the 2020s for newer water rights holders due to lack of irrigation water.

* Low-lying agricultural areas such as the Skagit River delta could be at higher risk of flooding as sea levels rise.

* Livestock heat stress and mortality will likely increase as temperatures rise.

* Higher temperatures will allow invasive weeds and pests not previously seen in Washington to expand their ranges.

* The negative effects of hotter summers will outweigh the benefits of warmer winters for agricultural production.

Among the recommended actions for farmers are:

* Develop and enhance emergency response plans to manage significant pest outbreaks.

* Select crop varieties capable of adapting to predicted changes.

* Modify livestock facilities to reduce heat stress and limit enclosure during hot weather.

The state departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Fish and Wildlife, Health, Natural Resources and Transportation collaborated on the report.


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