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Blog | 8 min read
October 18, 2023
October 18, 2023

US weather unpredictability: what the aata says, and what the future holds.

Over the past decade, climate change has exerted a significant impact on American agriculture, presenting both challenges and opportunities for the agri-food sector. One of the most notable aspects of this impact is the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

Prolonged droughts, intense storms, and unpredictable shifts in seasonal patterns have resulted in substantial losses in crop and livestock production. These extreme events have affected not only the traditional agricultural regions of the Midwest but also production areas in the South and West of the country, raising concerns about the resilience of the food system.

Additionally, rising average temperatures have altered cropping patterns across the United States, necessitating adjustments to cope with changing climatic conditions. This has led to the adoption of new crop varieties, more efficient irrigation systems, and improved farming practices.

However, climate change has also spurred a heightened focus on agricultural sustainability and the mitigation of carbon footprints. Farmers and researchers have collaborated to develop environmentally friendly practices, including conservation agriculture, precision farming, and the integration of renewable energy into farming operations. These initiatives not only enhance resilience to climate change but also contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Read on to discover the past, present and future of US weather shocks – and get information on how ProducePay is helping businesses manage this supply chain unpredictability.

10 Natural Disasters that Impacted US Agriculture (up to 2023)

Climatic EventMost affected statesMost affected commodities
Texas Drought (2011)TexasCorn, wheat, soybeans
California Drought (2014-2017)CaliforniaAlmonds, grapes, strawberries
Hurricane Harvey (2017)Texas, LouisianaRice, corn, sorghum
California Drought (2020)CaliforniaAlmonds, nuts, citrus fruits
Midwestern Floods (2019)Nebraska, Iowa, MisisipiCorn, soybeans, wheat
Pacific Northwest Heat Wave (2021)Oregon, Washington, IdahoCherries, apples, pears
Winter Storm Uri (2021)Texas, Oklahoma, MisisipiOranges, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits
Southwest Drought (2021)Arizona, New Mexico, NevadaGreen leafy vegetables, chili peppers, corn
Hurricane Idalia (2023)FloridaCitrus, table grapes
Tormenta invernal Sage (2023)West, Midwest and NorthwestRomaine lettuce, strawberry, celery, carrot, broccoli and garlic

Source: Various news

The main climatic risks by season

One of the foremost challenges during this season is late frosts, which can occur when temperatures remain low, particularly in northern regions. These frosts can harm the tender shoots and blossoms of various crops, such as apples, pears, cherries, and vineyards, resulting in reduced harvests and impacting farmers’ incomes. 

Moreover, spring is a period when heavy rains occur in certain areas, leading to the risk of flooding and soil erosion. To mitigate these risks, farmers must implement water management practices such as terracing and proper drainage systems. Furthermore, fluctuations in spring temperatures can be unpredictable. Warmer temperatures can advance flowering and crop growth, while sudden cold spells can damage plants and lead to uneven growth.

Significant weather risks in the summer include drought and extreme heat waves. Drought can deplete crucial water resources for crop irrigation, reducing productivity and causing substantial losses. Prolonged heat waves and high temperatures can induce heat stress in plants, diminishing crop quality and yield. Increased evapotranspiration exacerbates water scarcity, underscoring the importance of water conservation practices for farmers.

During fall months, the primary weather risks are early frosts and severe storms. Early frosts can damage cold-sensitive crops such as corn, soybeans, and various fruits and vegetables, resulting in reduced yields and profits for farmers. Additionally, severe storms, sometimes accompanied by hail and strong winds, can devastate mature crops and agricultural infrastructure.

In the winter season in the United States, major weather risks for agriculture include frost, snowfall, and extremely cold temperatures. Winter frosts can harm sensitive crops like citrus and leafy greens, affecting their quality and production. Snowfall can disrupt farming operations by blocking highways and rural roads, making the transportation of agricultural products challenging. Extremely cold temperatures can also freeze the soil and damage the roots of perennial crops.

The most impacted crops

Apples: Growing regions in Washington, Oregon, and Michigan have experienced declines in production due to weather events such as late frosts and changes in rainfall patterns, damaging buds and blossoms and reducing yields.

Cherries: The Pacific Northwest region, known for its cherry production, has suffered from hail storms and heavy rains, severely affecting trees and production.

Grapes: California’s grape-growing regions have faced challenges due to prolonged droughts and heatwaves, significantly reducing table grape production.

Oranges: Florida, a major orange-producing state, experiences production losses each year due to extreme weather events, primarily hurricanes that damage citrus trees and affect the harvest.

Peaches: Peach trees in Georgia and South Carolina have encountered issues related to insufficient cold hours during the winter, resulting from slightly warmer temperatures, negatively affecting flowering and peach production.

Tomatoes: Various regions in the United States, including California and Florida, have seen tomato production affected by prolonged droughts, intense heat waves, and excessive rainfall, which often damages tomato plantations, reducing quality and affecting growers’ yields.

Peppers: Like tomatoes, peppers grown in states such as California and Texas have faced challenges due to extreme weather conditions, including high temperatures and droughts.

Lettuce: California, a major lettuce-producing region, has witnessed considerable impacts due to extreme weather conditions, particularly persistent droughts during the last decades. High temperatures have also been a concern, causing direct damage to crops and making leaves less appealing.

Carrots: Late frosts pose a risk to carrot production, as this crop is planted early in the spring. Late frosts, which sometimes occur in the transition from spring to summer, can damage both the leaves and roots of carrot plants.

Cucumbers: High temperatures are a concern for cucumbers, as they are sensitive to heat. Intense heat waves can cause direct damage to plants, including leaf dehydration and reduced production, affecting cucumber quality and consumer appeal.

What to expect in the future?

The future impact of weather events on U.S. agriculture appears challenging and demands careful attention from all stakeholders in the agricultural sector. With an anticipated increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, including droughts, floods, and storms, the agri-food sector is likely to continue facing significant challenges.

According to the U.S. National Climate Change Assessment Report, projections suggest an increase in average temperatures and greater variability in precipitation, both of which are expected to have adverse effects on the production of key crops, including numerous horticultural products. In addition to weather-related changes, warmer and wetter conditions are expected to lead to an increase in agricultural pests and diseases, potentially causing substantial losses in crop production.

To address these challenges, it is crucial for farmers to adopt climate-resilient farming practices, such as crop diversification, improved water management, and the implementation of advanced climate monitoring and forecasting technologies. Investment in research and development to create crop varieties that are more resilient to climate change is also essential.

Furthermore, buyers face the challenge of meeting customer demand throughout the year. In a world characterized by constantly changing climates, relying solely on local supply sources can result in product supply instabilities. Therefore, geographic diversification of supply sources becomes critical. This necessitates establishing connections with farmers in different regions and countries, not only to ensure a consistent supply but also to promote diversity in the products available in the market.

How can ProducePay help mitigate weather-based supply chain unpredictability?

At ProducePay, we are on a mission to drive predictable commerce up and down the produce supply chain. In the context of weather shocks, we offer a variety of solutions that can help mitigate problems:

  • Securing Supply
    • Spot Trading – Our spot trading solutions allow buyers to find supply last-minute when volatile weather has impacted their programmatic trading. They can rapidly tap into our extensive network of pre-vetted growers. In turn, these growers, by being part of our network, gain access to buyers who need their produce. 
    • Programmatic Trading – Buyers can tap our network of trusted, geographically diverse growers to strengthen sourcing and establish 365-day supply. (And our supply chain visibility solutions allow buyers to feel confident they’ll receive full on-time delivery. ) Again, for sellers, being part of our network offers them more opportunities to build relationships and grow their business.
    • Quality Visibility – Buyers can access advanced quality monitoring and control throughout the supply chain, in order to ensure on-time and in-full delivery of high quality produce.
  • Quick-Pay Financing – Our flexible funding enables both buyers and growers to optimize their cash flow based on their needs. For sellers, if bad weather causes harvest to get pushed out and they need to bridge a cash flow gap, we can provide the capital they need. And when supply is squeezed and buyers need to ensure access and quality – we can empower them to pay their growers within 24 hours (and they retain the flexibility to pay ProducePay back on their usual terms). 
  • Pre-Season Financing – By providing growers with working capital – up to $30M in as little as 30 days – we enable them to invest where their farm needs it most. They can use the capital to recover from weather damage; they can invest in operational efficiency through proper drainage systems or another technology; they can drive sustainability practices with renewable energy systems – or any other operational need.

Sources: EOS, El Tiempo Latino, The New York Times, Yale Climate Connections, La Marea, United Nations, Drought Monitor of United States, USDA