In Press: Devadoss details why rising temps could make milk more expensive
By: Norman Martin
Recently, Stephen Devadoss, a longtime professor with Texas Tech's Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, was interviewed by Marina Pitofsky, a reporter with USA TODAY. During their discussion, Devadoss briefly outlined how warming temperatures could affect small farms.
If you've noticed your regular gallon of milk at the grocery store is getting more expensive, it could be for many reasons. In fact, there's an adage in the dairy industry along the lines of “only five people in the world know how milk is priced in the U.S. – and four of them are dead.”
But one factor that could push prices higher is rising temperatures caused by climate change. Researchers have found that when temperatures spike, dairy cows may respond by producing less milk, PBS NewsHour reported. And with emissions threatening to make heat waves worse and lengthen warm seasons that could mean less milk production from cows across the country.
It's certainly possible that cows producing less milk could drive higher prices for consumers. But many other factors could come into play, including the demand for milk, regulation of dairy costs from the federal government and the willingness of retailers to absorb price increases. Agriculture also plays its own role in global emissions of greenhouse gases.
If production were to decrease relative to what people otherwise would have expected, there are plenty of mechanisms by which that tightening in production will result in a higher price, just like anything else would. Stephen Devadoss, the Emabeth Thompson Endowed Professor with Texas Tech's Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, emphasized that warming temperatures could hit small farms the hardest because of the costs of keeping cows cool with fans and more.
“For them (producers) to survive, they need to see higher prices for milk,” he said. “If the price does not go up as much as the cost of production, then many farmers are going to go out of business.”
Farmers are going to have to take on the initial costs of keeping their cows comfortable, whether that means using cooling systems more frequently or intensively than usual. There are days that are more extreme, which is entirely consistent with climate change scenarios, and those more extreme days could very well be putting some producers into a place their current existing management systems aren't really designed.
So, with the prices of grocery staples already increasing for many families, rising temperatures could signal bad news for dairy farmers and consumers alike.
Earlier this year Devadoss was named the new president-elect of the Western Agricultural Economics Association. In his academic career, hehas published more than 140 refereed journal articles and has received 16 research awards and 20 teaching awards. Devadoss received his bachelor's degree in agriculture from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore, India, and his master's degree in agricultural economics from Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi, India. His doctorate in economics is from Iowa State University-Ames.
CONTACT: Phillip Johnson, chairman and director of the Thornton Agricultural Finance Institute, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Texas Tech University at (806) 834-0474 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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Editor: Norman Martin
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