Climate Change Hits the Grocery Store and Dinner Plate

You might start seeing some changes at the grocery store this spring. The price of lettuce is expected to jump 34 percent. The cost of an avocado is likely to increase from 35 cents to $1.60 each, and meat prices are also likely to climb as well, since wholesale beef prices have hit record highs this year.

Many of these price spikes can be traced back to the record-breaking drought in California. But California farmers aren’t the only ones struggling in the face of extreme weather.

According to the National Climate Assessment released on Tuesday, many crops are expected to decline as a result of the drought, heavy rains, and pests made worse by climate change. That means higher prices at the store, but also greater challenges for the farmers producing our food.

Matt Russell, a fifth-generation farmer in Lacona, Iowa, says, “Scientists have been telling us what climate change looks like. As farmers, we’re living it.”

In Iowa, for instance, hazardous weather between 2010 and 2012 caused losses totaling $4.34 billion mainly in crop damage. And an unusually early and warm warm spring spurred rapid plant growth at Michigan fruit farms in 2012, but then a return to normal spring weather resulted in a series of freezes that destroyed the cherry crop and at least 90 percent of the apple, peach, and juice grape crops.

“We don’t know what normal is anymore,” says corn and soybean farmer Arlyn Schipper in this video by my NRDC colleague Rocky Kistner.

Arlyn Schipper is a corn and soybean farmer in Conrad, Iowa. Credit: NRDC

The stakes are high for all of us. As Russell explains, “We are already experiencing the effects of climate change. It’s going to be very difficult for us to continue to feed a growing population if the agriculture systems we have in place now are no longer viable with the climate that’s changed.”

Many farmers are concerned about what it will take to farm in these altered conditions. Extreme weather may require expensive new machines to handle rain-drenched fields or a shift in crops and planting cycles. NRDC is calling on the USDA to support farmers who are trying to become more resilient in the face of extreme weather. But our nation must also tackle this crisis at its root: we must reduce the pollution that causes climate change.

Power plants are the largest source of US carbon pollution. The United States limits mercury, arsenic, and soot from power plants, yet astonishingly there are no national limits on how much carbon these plants can dump into our atmosphere.

This June, the Environmental Protection Agency will propose the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. NRDC analysis shows that strong carbon limits would yield up to $60 billion in health and environmental benefits by 2020. NRDC also found that energy efficiency provides the cheapest way for utilities to meet carbon limits—and utility investments efficiency also help reduce household electric bills. Click here to tell the EPA you support strong limits on dangerous carbon pollution.

If America acts now to reduce carbon pollution, we can help protect our communities from unchecked climate change. And we can ensure our nation’s farms and food remain secure long into the future.


Editor’s Note: The original version of this post mentioned a drought in Ohio. Our source material erroneously said the drought was in 2009. When we realized the mistake, we removed the reference.