We are used to news items that talk about droughts, floods, hail, heatwaves and other weather extremes that have devastating impacts upon crop production. But these stories were interesting because they demonstrated very clearly what effect weather can have on agriculture in some unexpected ways.
According to a story in the online Country Guide cattle futures prices reached new highs on the Chicago Mercentile Exchange thanks to freezing arctic air which has brought minus 50 temperatures to parts of the US and Canada, disrupted livestock production and prevented delivery of cattle to packing houses because of treacherous road conditions.
Meanwhile Reuters are predicting that farmers in Australia will have to slaughter huge numbers of cattle in the next few months as the hottest year since 1910 has left many producers seriously short on feed for their cattle.
Interestingly I have just spent the past few weeks interviewing farmers for a project that I am working on and in the course of these conversations I was reminded that weather extremes such as drought don't just mean things don't grow, but can also bring plagues of damaging insects such as grasshoppers who make short work of any crops that are left.
Too often we speak about climate change as if it's something we have to worry about in the future and probably need to start doing something to try and fix it "soon". But to go back to my opening statement, all of the above news and anecdotal stories from farmers clearly show that climate change is having an effect on our food production systems now.
That's a sobering though as we wonder about how we'll feed 9.7 billion people by 2050.
©2014, Angela Lovell.