Renewable Natural 

Resources Foundation

Congress on Adapting Food Production

to a Changing Climate:

Identifying Tactics and Establishing Priorities

December 9-10, 2014

American Geophysical Union Conference Facility

2000 Florida Ave NW
Washington, DC

Click here to download the congress report.

        Program      Further Reading      Delegate Affiliations

Program Committee      Congressional Forum 

Wikimedia Commons

Agricultural systems are extremely sensitive to climatic variability. Deviations from historical patterns of temperature and precipitation cause agricultural areas to shift, affecting crop production cycles and yield, and the proliferation of disease, insect pests, and weeds. Extreme weather patterns, especially drought, pose an increasing risk to food supplies as the planet warms. The consequences of a changing climate will vary from region to region and will be alleviated or exacerbated by each region’s respective social, economic, and political environment.

Global food production is poised to decrease by up to 2% each decade for the remainder of the 21st century. Meanwhile, changing diets and increasing population size may cause food demand to rise by as much as 14% each decade. (IPCC 2014)

Climate change impacts including temperature increases and altered precipitation patterns are already affecting agriculture in the United States. Effects will vary by region but all production systems will be affected, and timely research and response are critical. Elements of sustainable domestic agricultural production include water allocation, crop selection, adjusted production and harvesting strategies, and policies prioritizing resilience.

The international community faces similar issues. The situation is more complicated in some regions because of economic and social pressures. Food shortages can pose humanitarian crises and national security concerns. The impacts of climate change will fall disproportionately on developing countries and could interrupt progress to significantly reduce world hunger. Short-term variability in supply can destabilize food systems in areas particularly vulnerable to hunger and under-nutrition.

RNRF congress delegates discussed the consequences of a changing climate on agricultural production and identified tactics and priorities for sustaining global productivity. The congress featured discussions on domestic and international policies, agronomic and technical solutions, economics, food security, and distribution. It concluded with a discussion of the future of international agricultural and food institutions. The primary goals of this meeting were to identify specific strategies and tactics to sustainably adapt food production to a changing climate and explore the multi-disciplinary and global scale of this challenge. 

Summaries of presentations, findings, and recommendations of participants are presented in a special edition of the Renewable Resources Journal available here.

Featured Speakers

Susan Capalbo
Oregon State University
Kenneth Cassman
University of
Christopher Delgado
World Resources Institute
Åsa Giertz
World Bank
Thomas Hertel
Purdue University

Robert Mendelsohn
Yale University
Julie Morris
U.S. Global Change Research Program
Martina Newell-McGloughlin
University of California-Davis
Sara Scherr
EcoAgriculture Partners
Charles Walthall
USDA Agricultural Research Service


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

8:00 am – 8:50 am
Registration and Continental Breakfast

9:00 am – 9:30 am
Welcome and Opening Remarks

Richard Engberg
RNRF Chairman
Technical Director
American Water Resources Association
Middleburg, Virginia

9:30 am – 10:10 am

Effects of climate change on the agroecosystem (to 2050).
An overview presentation. What weather patterns and climatic changes are anticipated between now and 2050? How will these changes affect crop productivity, the range and extent of pests and disease, and ecosystem structure and function.

Charles Walthall
National Program Leader, Climate Change, Soils and Air Emissions Research Program
USDA Agricultural Research Service
Beltsville, Maryland


PowerPoint Slides
Referenced resources: Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation

Climate Change Reports

Carbon Sequestration and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Agriculture: Challenges and Opportunities                 

10:10 am – 10:40 am
Questions/ Discussion

10:40 am – 11:00 am

11:05 am – 11:35 am
An economic analysis of the impact of climate change on agriculture.
A comparison of economic impacts in developed versus developing nations. What economic consequences are anticipated with different degrees of warming? To include a discussion of the implications for adaptation policy.

Robert Mendelsohn
Professor of Forest Policy, Professor of Economics, and Professor in the School of Management
Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut

PowerPoint Slides

11:35 – 12:05 pm
Questions/ Discussion

12:05 pm – 1:05 pm

1:10 pm – 1:40 pm
Tools to adapt food production to climate change: agronomic responses.
An exploration of early response farm production practices including crop diversification, change in intensification, fallow/tillage practices, irrigation, and timing changes. What are the barriers to the upkeep of climate smart agriculture practices? How do we address them?

Kenneth Cassman
Robert B. Daugherty Professor of Agronomy
University of Nebraska- Lincoln
Lincoln, Nebraska

PowerPoint Slides
Referenced resources: Global Yield Gap Atlas

Can there be a green revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa without large expansion of irrigated crop production?

Crop Ecology

1:40 pm – 2:10 pm


2:15 pm – 2:30 pm

2:35 pm – 3:05 pm
Tools to adapt food production to climate change: technological solutions.
Technological solutions for climate change adaptation include new crop varieties, resilient seed stock, early weather warning systems, and appropriate mechanical cropping technologies for developing countries. This segment will feature an overview of the role of genetically modified organisms, including safety and ethical considerations, technological frontiers and benefits.

Martina Newell-McGloughlin
Director, University of California Systemwide Biotechnology Research and Education Program
Co-Director, NIH Training Program in Biomolecular Technology
Co-Director, NSF IGERT CREATE Training Program
Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Plant Pathology
University of California, Davis
Davis, California

PowerPoint Slides

3:05 pm – 3:35 pm
Questions/ Discussion

3:40 pm – 4:10 pm
Landscape planning to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
A discussion of integrated landscape management to provide agricultural products sustainably, support viable livelihoods for local people, and conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services. What tools can be used to simultaneously reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainable agriculture in the face of climate change?

Sara Scherr
President and Chief Executive Officer
EcoAgriculture Partners
Washington, D.C.

PowerPoint Slides
Referenced resource: Landscapes for People, Food and Nature                                                                                  

4:10 pm – 4:40 pm
Questions/ Discussion

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

8:00 am – 8:50 am
Continental Breakfast

9:00 am – 9:30 am
Adopting public policies and priorities to encourage climate-smart agricultural practices.
What are the policy tools available to influence and promote climate-smart agriculture? Include discussion of farm subsidies. Do current policies incentivize resilience to climate stresses? What adjustments are required?

Susan Capalbo
Department Head and Professor, Applied Economics
Oregon State University
Corvallis, Oregon

PowerPoint Slides
Referenced resources: Climate-smart agriculture for food security

The Role for Scientists in Tackling Food Insecurity and Climate Change

Achieving food security in the face of climate change: Summary for policy makers from the Commission
on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change

2014 Farm Bill

9:30 am – 10:00 am
Questions/ Discussion

10:05 am – 10:35 am
U.S. federal agency coordination and decision-making for climate change policy and research
An overview of interagency activity, coordination, and information sharing. What formal government entities have been formed to coordinate climate change science, policy and research in support of the White House Global Climate Change Initiative? What are the opportunities to improve federal programs and response?

Julie Morris
Associate Director of Implementation and Strategic Planning
U.S. Global Change Research Program
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
Washington, D.C.

PowerPoint Slides
Referenced resources: The National Global Change Research Plan 2012-2021

National Climate Assessment 2014

Draft Report: Global Climate Change, Food Security and the U.S. Food System                                 
    (Not available for review as of 12/16/14)

National Climate Assessment Net

Regional Climate Scenarios

Global Change Information System

Federal Adaptation Resources

Our Changing Planet

U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit

Climate Data Initiative

Climate Education, Literacy and Training Initiative

10:35 am – 11:05 am
Questions/ Discussion

11:05 am – 11:25 am

11:30 am – 12:00 pm
How will climate change affect the international food market, production and distribution system?
An overview of current global food consumption and distribution patterns. How will food prices, trade and distribution be affected by climate change?

Thomas Hertel
Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Economics
Purdue University
Founder and Executive Director
Global Trade Analysis Project
West Lafayette, Indiana

PowerPoint Slides

12:00 am – 12:30 am
Questions/ Discussion

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm

1:35 pm – 2:05 pm
Understanding and managing risk in the international food market
Formulating a risk management framework to respond to increasing volatility driven by climate change and increasing demand for food.

Åsa Giertz
Agricultural Specialist
The World Bank
Washington, D.C.

PowerPoint Slides

2:05 pm – 2:35 pm
Questions/ Discussion

2:40 pm - 3:10 pm
Building support for international agricultural and food programs in developing countries.
Agricultural assistance programs must become a higher international priority. How can political and financial support be increased? What are the opportunities for international institutions to become more effective and efficient? Are there opportunities to increase coordination and cooperation among international organizations?

Christopher Delgado
Senior Fellow
World Resources Institute
Washington, D.C.

PowerPoint Slides
Referenced resources: World Development Report 2008                                                                                         

The New Climate Economy

3:10 pm - 3:40 pm
Questions/ Discussion

3:50 pm – 4:10 pm
Congress Wrap-up and Discussion

Robert Day
Executive Director
Renewable Natural Resources Foundation
North Bethesda, Maryland

Further Reading

Climate change: Impact on agriculture and costs of adaptation
. International Food Policy Research Institute. November 2009.

Antle, John M. Adaptation of Agriculture and the Food System to Climate Change: Policy Issues. Resources for the Future. February 2010.

Global Monitoring Report: Food Prices, Nutrition, and the Millennium Development Goals. The World Bank. 2012.

Implementing agriculture for development: World Bank Group agriculture action plan (2013-2015). The World Bank. 2013.

Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation. U.S. Department of Agriculture Technical Bulletin 1935. February 2013.

The State of Food Insecurity in the World: The multiple dimensions of food security. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2013.

Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States. Risky Business Project. October 2013.

National Climate Assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program. 2014.

Food security in a world of natural resource scarcity: The role of agricultural technologies. International Food Policy Research Institute. 2014.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report. Chapter 7: Food Security and Food Production Systems. Working Group II. March 2014.

Moving toward a sustainable landscape approach to development. The World Bank. June 2014.

Steenwerth, Kerri L. et al. Climate-smart agriculture global research agenda: scientific basis for action. Agriculture & Food Security. August 2014.

Delegate Affiliations

A Well-Fed World
American Geophysical Union
American Planning Association
American Society of Agronomy
American Society of Civil Engineers
American Water Resources Association
Arizona State University
Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
Canadian Federation of Agriculture
Coalition on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases
Coastal States Organization
Cornell University
Crop Science Society of America
EcoAgriculture Partners
The Fertilizer Institute
Geological Society of America
Harvard University
The Johns Hopkins University Berman Institute of Bioethics
Morvan Farm at the University of Virginia
The National Academies
National Association of Counties
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Research Council - National Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources
National States Geographic Information Council
National Young Farmers Coalition
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
Oregon State University
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Joint Global Change Research Institute
Pennsylvania State University
Purdue University
Renewable Natural Resources Foundation
Royal Netherlands Embassy
Second Nature
Society of Wood Science and Technology
Soil Science Society of America
Southern Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors
Strategic Conservation Solutions
Tufts University
Union of Concerned Scientists
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of California Systemwide Biotechnology Research and Education Program
University of Maryland
University of Maryland - College of Behavioral and Social Sciences
University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment
University of Nebraska - Lincoln
University of Virginia
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Institute for Water Resources
USDA Agricultural Research Service
USDA Climate Change Program Office
USDA Economic Research Service
USDA Forest Service
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
U.S. Global Change Research Program, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
Virginia Tech
Washington State University
The World Bank
World Resources Institute
Yale University

Congress Program Committee

Dick Engberg, RNRF Chairman; Technical Director, American Water Resources Association

Robert Day
, RNRF Executive Director
John S. Dickey Jr., RNRF Board Member
John E. Durrant, RNRF Vice-Chairman; Sr. Managing Director, Engineering & Lifelong Learning, American Society of Civil Engineers
Sarah Gerould, RNRF Board Member; Former Board Member, Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry; Staff Scientist, U.S. Geological Survey
Albert A. Grant, RNRF Board Member; Former President, American Society of Civil Engineers; Consulting Civil Engineer
Erik Hankin, RNRF Board Member, Public Affairs Specialist, American Geophysical Union
John W. Hess, RNRF Board Member; Executive Director, The Geological Society of America
Paul Higgins, RNRF Board Member; Director, Policy Program, American Meteorological Society
Christopher Lant, Head, Department of Environment and Society, College of Natural Resources, Utah State University; Former RNRF Board Member; Former Executive Director, Universities Council on Water Resources
Julie McClure
, Science Policy Manager, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy
Howard Rosen, RNRF Board Member; Former President, Society of Wood Science and Technology
Nancy C. Somerville, Alternate Director, RNRF Board of Directors; Executive Vice President, American Society of Landscape Architects
Barry Starke, RNRF Board Member; Former President, American Society of Landscape Architects; Principal, Earth Design Associates, Inc.
Kasey White, Alternate Director, RNRF Board of Directors; Director for Geoscience Policy, Geological Society of America

Staff Liaisons:
Melissa M. Goodwin, RNRF Program Director
Jennee Kuang, RNRF Research Associate
Carolyn Tilney, RNRF Policy Intern

Special Thanks To:
Jessica Ball, Science Policy Fellow, Geological Society of America
Kathryn Boor, Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University
Noel Gollehon
, Senior Economist, Resource Economics, Analysis and Policy Division, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Renee Johnson, Specialist in Agricultural Policy, Congressional Research Service
Carol Jones, Senior Economist, USDA Economic Research Service
Janet Perry,
Director, Resource Economics, Analysis and Policy Division, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Mark Rosegrant, Division Director, Environment and Production Technology, International Food Policy Research Institute
Richard Waite, Associate, People and Ecosystems Program, World Resources Institute
Margaret Walsh, Senior Ecologist, USDA Climate Change Program Office
Charlie Walthall, National Program Leader, Natural Resources and Sustainable Agricultural Systems, USDA Agricultural Research Service

Congressional Forum on Climate Change and U.S. Food Production

RNRF hosted a congressional forum on climate change and U.S. food production at the Cannon House Office Building on July 21, 2015 in Washington, D.C. The forum followed the 2014 Congress on Adapting Food Production to a Changing Climate. Forum speakers discussed the effects of climate change on U.S. food production and examined federal funding for programs and research that support climate change resilience in agriculture.

Charlie Walthall, National Program Leader for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service Climate Change, Soils and Air Quality Research Program, opened the forum with a presentation of the effects of climate change on the agroecosystem. Changing climate conditions that affect agricultural production include temperature increases, precipitation changes, and increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Walthall stressed that water is the number one issue for agriculture in the 21st century. Drought, flooding, groundwater recharge and soil moisture are critical issues that must be addressed. Although individual farmers will likely be able to adjust to the effects of climate change in the near-term, the long-term health of the U.S. agricultural system will depend on efforts from the entire farming community, including managers, breeders, geneticists, industry, and NGOs.

Dr. Walthall’s presentation can be downloaded here.

Bethany Johns, Science Policy Manager for the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, concluded the forum with an examination of federal funding for USDA programs and research that support climate change adaptation in agriculture. A strategic goal of USDA is to “ensure our national forests and private working lands are conserved, restored, and made more resilient to climate change, while enhancing our water resources.” Johns emphasized three takeaway messages in her presentation: 1) Climate science research, adaptation, and mitigation are intrinsic to the mission of USDA and the programs that the department funds, 2) Federal budget constraints are causing an innovation deficit in food and agriculture science, and 3) The United States is falling behind in investment for agricultural research and development.

Dr. Johns’ presentation can be downloaded here.

Individuals attending Renewable Natural Resources Foundation events may be videotaped, audiotaped or photographed during the course of a meeting. By attending the RNRF Congress on Adapting Food Production to a Changing Climate: Identifying Tactics and Establishing Priorities, delegates grant RNRF the right to use your name, photograph, biography, and the content of any comments, if any, in RNRF educational, news, or promotional material, whether in print, electronic or other media, including the RNRF website.