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The Potential Impact of Climate Change on Specialty Crops

The Potential Impact of Climate Change on Specialty Crops

In the United States, specialty crops were originally defined more or less by default--they were non-row crops that were not covered by U.S. farm support programs. A more specific definition did not come until 2004, as part of the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act, which explicitly defines them as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture”. In recent farm bills, Congress has established a number of programs that target some particular needs of the specialty crop sector, but producers of these crops have deliberately chosen not to seek programs that provide direct financial support such as has been the norm for producers of major crops such as corn, wheat, and cotton since the first farm bill passed in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression.

According to data collected by USDA’s Economic Research Service, market receipts for U.S. specialty crops are projected at $85.9 billion in 2020, accounting for 24 percent of the value of all agricultural production this year. The majority of specialty crops are raised in states with mild climates amenable to year-round production, such as California, Florida, Oregon, and Washington state, which are expected to account for nearly 60 percent of production by value this year.
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