Extreme Weather Impacts Agriculture

Aug 3, 2023 | Announcements

Agriculture is a business heavily influenced by uncontrollable factors, with weather being a prime example. Picture yourself as a business owner, where the success of your operation is determined by rainfall, temperature fluctuations, and other meteorological variables. In New York State, renowned for its thriving agriculture, farmers face annual challenges rooted in the ever-changing weather patterns right outside their doorsteps. 

Cast your mind back to the summer of 2016. While many of us reveled in lakeside relaxation or poolside leisure, farmers stood in their fields, meticulously examining their crops and perhaps even performing a rain dance. Severe drought conditions declared disaster areas in numerous regions across the state. The situation worsened with an unseasonably warm winter in 2017, followed by an exceptionally wet spring that hindered farmers and left them pondering how they would manage to plant their crops. The prolonged spring rain not only delayed planting but also compromised the quality and quantity of the harvest. More recently, this past spring brought about drastic swings in temperature and an extended period without rain, creating uncertainty when planning and implementing essential farming practices. 

What is the significance of these weather-related challenges? As you journey down rural roads, farms of all sizes dotting the landscape catch your eye. While consumers may not directly experience the impact of weather, it profoundly affects the feed provided to livestock and the pastures they graze on, ultimately influencing their overall well-being. 

Extreme temperatures, whether scorching or freezing, necessitate extra effort from farmers to ensure their herds or flocks remain adequately warm or cool, enabling them to continue producing high-quality milk, meat, and fiber. The health of the livestock also comes under increased scrutiny during these temperature fluctuations, as the perfect storm of fluctuating temperatures and wet weather can lead to respiratory problems. In such instances, farmers work closely with veterinarians to restore the animal’s health, much like how we seek medical attention when we fall ill. 

The pastures on which livestock graze and the fields where crops grow are also at the mercy of weather conditions. Various field conditions impact the availability and digestibility of crops, ultimately affecting the quality and quantity of animal products.  

Extreme weather, like the heavy snowfall we see here in regions of NY, can result in crop losses, driving up prices for both consumers and farmers alike. Let's not forget the impact the weather has on the people involved. Icy road conditions can delay milk truck deliveries. At the same time, frozen water buckets and burst pipes are common occurrences during winters, not to mention the occasional call reporting a malfunctioning heating system in parts of the barn. The farm is never short on excitement and challenges during the winter months. 

While some revel in the abundance of sunny days during summer or the endless cold on the ski slopes, it's crucial to remember those residing in rural parts of New York who may find themselves performing rain dances or seeking warmth by the wood stove. The next time rain showers grace your local barbecue, spare a thought for the farmers in the area, as those drops could be exactly what they need to sustain their crops and keep their cows healthy throughout the year. Regardless of the prevailing weather conditions, farmers persevere, focusing on what they can control while leaving the rest to the whims of Mother Nature.