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Vermont Has Developed America’s Most Comprehensive Food System Plan: How Did They Do It?

The Green Mountain State has long been a national leader in sustainable agriculture and local food.

The following excerpt is from Community Resilience Reader edited by Daniel Lerch. Copyright © 2017 Post Carbon Institute. Reproduced by permission of Island Press, Washington, D.C.

Everything Is at Stake, Including Steak

The burning of fossil fuels to power society—together with the clearing of carbon sinks such as forests for housing, agriculture, and other purposes—has created dangerous conditions for the resilience of food systems. Two reports from the US Department of Agriculture describe the anticipated detrimental effects of climate change on most crops, livestock, ecosystems, and human workers (these effects will vary somewhat by region):

  • Rising temperatures and altered precipitation patterns will affect agricultural productivity. Crop sector impacts from weather in the United States are likely to be greatest in the Midwest, and these impacts will likely expand due to damage from crop pests. Moreover, because the impacts of climate change are global, the availability of food products that we have been accustomed to enjoying—and that US companies use as key ingredients—will diminish. For example, cocoa production in Ghana and the Ivory Coast is expected to decline, as is coffee production.

  • Livestock production systems are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and are also vulnerable to temperature stresses. Temperature stresses can be mitigated for animals raised indoors, but hotter summer temperatures may require new thermal environment control systems, and the cost and availability of animal feed will likely be a problem.

  • Climate change will exacerbate current stresses from weeds, diseases, and insect pests on plants and animals; it will also alter pollinator life cycles, which will impact all types of crop and livestock production.

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