In response to a request from state lawmakers, the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Maryland Department of the Environment has released a Study in Preparation for a Maryland Agriculture Climate Vulnerability Assessment.
This study in preparation for a full assessment is the first step in addressing and mitigating impacts from climate change on Maryland’s top industry, agriculture.
The 2021 General Assembly Joint Chairmen’s Report requested the Hughes Center work with the Maryland Department of Agriculture and Maryland Department of the Environment to prepare a study in preparation for a full climate vulnerability assessment for Maryland Agriculture. The three entities worked with a Project Leadership Team that includes the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Chesapeake Bay Commission, University of Maryland (UMD) College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, UMD Extension, USDA Northeast Climate Hub, and a farming stakeholder in order to complete this report. The resulting study released this February is a roadmap that details what is known about climate impacts to Maryland agriculture, who is impacted, and what resources are needed for a full assessment.
The climate around the world is changing and the rate of change is accelerating. Maryland farmers have already seen impacts from climate change, and are expected to continue to experience impacts like warmer nighttime temperatures, changes in precipitation, and the emergence of invasive species, pests and weed pressure. The full vulnerability assessment will include reviews and analysis of recent research, identification of future research needs, robust stakeholder engagement to ensure our farmers’ needs are being met, and identification of agriculture response strategies that improve resilience and mitigate climate change impacts.
The vulnerability assessment will have broad impacts beyond the scope of farming’s resiliency. The assessment process as recommended can help ensure a lasting economic impact on Maryland. Consider other sectors ancillary to agriculture, like transportation, international trade, or land use, and their reliance on a strong agricultural system — a resilient agricultural community can elevate the sectors that rely on it. The full assessment can also create new opportunities to meet the state’s overall climate goals. The ecosystem services provided by farmers as a result of the full assessment could help Maryland meet goals found in efforts such as the Watershed Implementation Plan, the 2030 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act Plan, or the Plan to Adapt to Saltwater Intrusion and Salinization. A Maryland investment in a full vulnerability assessment will assist in positioning the state for additional federal funding opportunities.