Today's Paper Arkansas News Legislature Newsletters Core Values Sports Public Notices Archive Obits Puzzles Opinion Story Ideas
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

OPINION | HALLIE SHOFFNER: Save food supply

Climate change not hypothetical by Hallie Shoffner Special to the Democrat-Gazette | December 2, 2022 at 3:02 a.m.


The dreaded checkout line. As we pull up with our shopping carts, we wonder, "How much will the total be this time?" With nearly every grocery store visit today, we must brace ourselves for financial blowback. Over the past year alone, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found food costs spiked more than 11 percent--the largest increase since 1979. Add in unmitigated climate change, and economists predict consumers will continue to see prices soar.

So, how can we fix the food price crisis? Unlike the supply-chain challenges we experienced at the height of the covid-19 pandemic, this issue can't be solved by addressing or adapting to consumer demand. Everyone needs to eat. To get costs down, we must focus on protecting our supply. That begins by empowering those who grow our food to become more resilient to extreme weather patterns.

The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future noted, "Agriculture has always been at the mercy of unpredictable weather, but a rapidly changing climate is making [it] an even more vulnerable enterprise." Here in Arkansas, we've witnessed the "dual threats" of flooding and drought that Johns Hopkins pinpointed as particularly detrimental to the industry's survival.

This summer, our state battled a severe drought. Then mid-harvest, the rain came, but it was too late. The Mississippi River had reached historically low levels. Barges stalled, forcing producers to find costly alternatives to transport their crops. Some producers without sufficient resources or storage abandoned their crops altogether. In a double whammy, farmers couldn't get fertilizer for the next round of planting, a catastrophic series of events Fortune Magazine says will "inevitably increase pressure on global food prices."

The United Nations recently held the 2022 Climate Change Conference, also known as COP27. During the nearly two-week event, stakeholders offered insight into how countries might mitigate the adverse effects of global warming on our food supply chain. One consistent recommendation: encouraging climate-smart agriculture practices. Fortunately, the American agriculture industry is already ahead of the curve thanks to a recent influx of federal funding.

In August, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which allocated $20 billion for sustainable agriculture and conservation programs. Next up: the 2023 Farm Bill. The Council of State Governments said this bill is "the most impactful piece of legislation related to agriculture," overseeing crucial topics from farm payments to environmental stewardship. It's a prime opportunity for the U.S. House and Senate to build on the momentum of the Inflation Reduction Act by further expanding proven initiatives like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program or Conservation Stewardship Program.

We don't have to be scientists to realize climate change is no longer hypothetical. We can see its toll on our food supply chain and, increasingly, our bank accounts. As the leaders at the COP27 noted, we likely can't stop extreme weather in its tracks. But we can lessen its impact by providing the resources our agricultural industry needs to put food on our tables. The first step we can take? Speaking up and encouraging our representatives to advocate for additional funding for climate-smart agriculture practices and programs in the 2023 Farm Bill.


A recently named Champion of Conservation, Hallie Shoffner is a sixth-generation Arkansas row-crop farmer and the CEO of SFR Seed, a soybean and rice seed production farm. For more information, visit farmherhallie.com or email hallie@sfrseed.com.


Print Headline: Save food supply

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsor Content

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT