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Agriculture in the Midwest

The Midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin) are often called the “Corn Belt”. However, this region offers a diversity of agricultural production beyond corn and soybean. The Midwest represents one of the most intense areas of agricultural production in the world and consistently affects the global economy. In 2007, Midwestern states had a market value of crop and livestock products sold of over $76 billion, encompassing corn, soybean, livestock, vegetables, fruits, tree nuts, berries, and nursery/greenhouse plants.

FACT: There are over 127 million acres of agricultural land in the Midwest and in addition to 75% of that area in corn and soybeans, the other 25% is used to produce alfalfa, apples, asparagus, green beans, blueberries, cabbage, carrots, sweet and tart cherries, cranberries, cucumbers, grapes, oats, onions, peaches, plums, peas, bell peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, raspberries, strawberries, sweet corn, tobacco, tomatoes, watermelon, and wheat.

Agriculture is an essential activity that supports human life. While agriculture supplies the food, fibers, and other materials used in everyday life, it also provides a much wider array of services and goods that support human well-being. Agriculture production, socio-economic systems and natural systems here in the Midwest are numerous and complex. To understand how best to adapt in a changing climate, we must first understand how the climate is impacting agriculture in the Region. For more information, please select the pages below.

Agriculture in a Changing Climate

Changes in climate and extreme weather have already occurred and are increasing challenges for agriculture nationally and globally. Many of the impacts are expected to continue or intensify in the future.

The effects of a changing climate and enhanced climate variability are already being seen across the Midwest; over the past century, temperatures have risen across all seasons, growing seasons have become longer, precipitation patterns have changed, and extreme precipitation events have increased in frequency and severity. Because of the sensitivity of agriculture to weather and climate conditions, these impacts can have substantial direct and indirect effects on farm production and profitability.

Agricultural Adaptation

Ongoing changes in climate have substantial impacts on the $76 billion agricultural sector in the Midwest. Diversity across this region, both in terms of climate and in agricultural commodities produced, indicates that potential responses to climate change will vary by location and commodity. In the south of this region, agricultural commodities are expected to be more vulnerable where the full effects of warmer temperatures and associated changes will be strongest. To help producers adapt to a changing climate in the Midwest, agricultural adaptation practices are being researched and put into play across the Midwest.