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CARGILL EXEC CHAIRMAN: AGRICULTURE MUST ENGAGE IN CLIMATE CHANGE DISCUSSION
Op-Ed appearing in the Des Moines Register

About the Author: GREG PAGE is the executive chairman of Cargill Inc., the company headquartered in suburban Minneapolis that provides food, agriculture, financial and industrial products and services throughout the world

The White House on July 30 convened leaders in the technology and agricultural sectors to discuss collaborations that can help ensure the resilience of food production in the face of changes in our climate.

This is welcome news. Because agriculture is so inextricably linked to weather, it is critically important that farmers and the agricultural community participate in the ongoing conversation about climate change, politically fraught as it may be.

On June 24, a group of business leaders released a report that attempts to quantify the risks of climate change to the U.S. economy, including the agricultural sector. I chose to participate in this effort, called Risky Business, because I believe it is important to have serious conversations now about what we can do to accommodate a range of climate change scenarios in the future.

The effects of climate change on agricultural production projected in recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Climate Assessment, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and now Risky Business all indicate that changing climate could have an impact on food production.

Regardless of one's views on climate change and its causes, it would be arrogant to dismiss these projections lightly. Everything that is challenging about producing more food for a world that is more populous, more urban and more affluent becomes more so when faced with a changing climate.

Fortunately, farmers everywhere are intimately familiar with the need to adapt to changing conditions - soil conditions, market conditions, credit market conditions, weather conditions and more.

This adaptive capacity and resilience is very real, but adaptation of agricultural productivity to changing climate is difficult to predict, as complexity increases the further you try to project into the future. That's one reason why the Risky Business report identified the risks of continuing on a "business-as-usual" trajectory and did not attempt to forecast how farmers will respond to these risks beyond adaptation at its historic pace.

In the face of a climate that may become warmer, wetter in some places, drier in others and more prone to extremes everywhere, we can expect certain responses, including changes in the number of crops per year, changes in crop phenotype, changes in crop rotation and potentially breakthrough advancements in genetics beyond the typical trend growth.

There will be bumps in the road in making these changes, bumps compounded by the uncertainties of evolving climate. That is why it is important to start this conversation now and identify the important policy choices we face.

Policies that will help farmers feed the world despite a changing climate include investment in innovation; a focus on maintaining open borders to allow food to flow freely from areas of surplus to areas of need; and rapid, responsible dissemination and adoption of biotechnology and other agricultural innovations to improve production without harming the environment.

The ability of farmers to manage risks in long-term, multi-generational contexts, has helped make U.S. agriculture extraordinarily resilient. That resilience is also built on innovation and on investments made decades ago.

As society grapples with the task of ensuring our global food system is sufficiently flexible to produce enough food for all - even in the face of local, climate-related disruptions - agriculture must have a voice at the table and work with others to develop solutions that create a more food-secure world.

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