Dr. Shaheer Burney - Impact of Climate Change on the Agriculture Industry

Stephen K. Boss, professor of environmental dynamics and sustainability in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas, launched the Coastlines & People (CoPe) Virtual Symposium Project on September 14, 2022. Boss presented “Far-Field Effects of Sea-Level Rise and Ocean-Climate Processes on the Heartland: An Overview.” This project was cosponsored by the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History in Fulbright College.

The tenth presentation entitled "Impact of Climate Change on the Agriculture Industry & Rural Communities" was delivered on February 23, 2023, by Shaheer Burney, assistant professor of agricultural business and the director of the Survey Research Center at University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

The agriculture sector accounts for about 5.4% of the U.S. GDP while farming contributes about 0.7%. However, the agriculture sector (including electricity use) was estimated to be responsible for about 11.2% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. in 2020. Often missing in discussions regarding agriculture’s role in climate change is the fact that the sector stands to face some of the harshest consequences of climate change. The rapid rise in the number of extreme weather events, including droughts, excessive precipitation, and heat waves, is estimated to have a significant adverse effect on agricultural productivity and crop yields, soil and water quality, and livestock health.

In addition, the rural communities that support and depend on most of U.S. agriculture are expected to bear the brunt of these consequences because they usually lack the resources to adequately address the disruptions from extreme weather events and already face socioeconomic constraints including poverty and population loss.

This seminar will outline the dynamics of climate change and U.S. agriculture, with an emphasis on communities in the Midwest, and will discuss the magnitude of the social and economic costs that the people and farms in the agriculture industry are likely to face. Perceptions of climate change and mitigation strategies, gleaned from recent surveys of farmers and residents conducted in the Upper Midwest communities, will also be discussed.

Burney’s research interests are twofold: (a) factors impacting the agricultural industry in the U.S. and strategies for improving farm profitability in an ever-changing environment, and (b) the economics of low-income households, particularly those who are facing food insecurity and are eligible to participate in federal food and nutrition assistance programs.

Recent work has included developing extension resources for Midwestern farmers, including financial tools for hemp growers and feasibility analyses of using robotic milking on dairy farms.

Notable published work on the economics of low-income households has explored the connection between two large federal assistance programs for low-income households, Medicaid and SNAP (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program), and how they mediate household food insecurity and poverty, and has evaluated the impact of state and local grocery taxes (or food taxes) on household food insecurity and on food spending patterns.

Burney has also conducted academic research on the impacts of COVID-19 on agricultural labor markets. As director of the Survey Research Center, Dr. Burney routinely conducts surveys in rural communities for academic projects, local chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, food co-ops, city governments, extension partners, etc. on a number of topics, such as quality of life, conservation, and diversity and equity.

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