I suspect that rainfall amounts will be relative, depending on area. I'm seriously worried that we will see ever more difficult weather for planting and harvest... even if we get plenty of good "grass growing" weather. We're in southwestern NY State... we gets tons of "Lake Effect" snow, but I've also observed "lake effect" thunderstorms and rain in the summer... "pop up showers" that appear out of nowhere, on days when the official "experts" at the Weather Bureau say our chance of rain is zero, or ten percent... that start over Lake Erie and then promptly ruin our haying day by dumping a quarter or half an inch over our farm. Very frustrating!

Because the thing is, "rainy and cool" (think Ireland) can be really good for growing grasses, especially cool season species. One of the main reasons we switched to a rotational grazing system for our dairy (were one of the very first in the state to adopt the "radical" new system back in 1982) was because we often couldn't get into the fields at the optimum time to harvest high quality forage, but the cattle could ALWAYS get out there to graze. There were certainly times when we had to keep them from grazing the regrowth in hay fields to avoid them pugging it up with deep hoofprints, but we had adequate acres of permanent pastures with very deep sod that wasn't easily damaged even in deep mud times. The grasses (especially, although white clover is very persistent and rugged as well) would regrow from deep roots, even after it appeared they had completely destroyed the pastures)

Unfortunately, if drought (in normally drier areas) IS one of the expected affects of a new cooling period, it's all too likely that large swaths of the American SouthWest may end up being almost useless for agriculture, and sadly, maybe even for ranching/grazing. Economics will affect a lot of decisions... while you may be able to cull numbers and lighten up on the grazing density (possibly having to go from something like 5 acres per cow/calf pair to 15 or even 30 acres per pair), it's simply not economically feasible. And lacking the ability to irrigate (either due to lack of actual aquifer reserves, or-again- economics, where the cost of irrigation equipment simply can't be pencilled out) means that local hay production may be eventually shut down, as well.

Things like spreader dams on any fields with any sort of slope (just a ridge of soil that's pushed up with a blade, that helps catch runoff and spread it over a wider area, allowing it time to soak into the soil, rather than run down to a creek or whatever and leave the property), ponds at lowest points (again, to help hold whatever water falls on your land), and planting deep rooted plants that will survive periodic (but not years- long) droughts should be considered. Possibly even something as drastic (to a cattleman! And believe me, I sympathize!!) as switching to goats, which are natural browsers, rather than grazers, and which might be able to produce on brushy land (often, land which can't support grass grows up to native species of brush, and goats will often browse even thorny species remarkably well)

Honestly, I'm glad we're getting older, although I suspect that my feelings of weariness and not wanting to have to try to figure out how to handle these new challenges is likely BECAUSE we're getting older... but honestly, the idea of living where we do and having an even longer winter and shorter warm seasons is NOT appealing! I'm sure it will be possible to adapt and even thrive... people are going to need food, no matter what, and unless the populations absolutely crash, food demands are going to continue to rise. But we'll personally be just concentrating on growing our own foods, along with producing quality beef and chicken for direct sale,and leave the deep thinking about how to adapt major food production in a changing climate to others.

Quite honestly, after over 40 years of getting screwed by the government's pricing schemes, crooked co-operatives (also encouraged by the government) and rapacious middlemen, I'm about out of patience! Dairy farmers around here are going bankrupt... the smaller family farms have all vanished over the past 30 years, but we're now hearing about several of the big ones (who just keep getting bigger in an attempt to maximize efficiency) who are truly struggling financially. The milk price isn't a whole lot higher than it was in 1980... but on a recent, rare trip to the grocery store, I was absolutely stunned at retail dairy prices... when they are getting over $6 a pound for mozzarella cheese, when the farmer is getting $1.20 for the milk required to make that pound of cheese (and you skim the butterfat off first, and sell it as butter for almost $6 a pound!!), well, something has to change. There's a reason the average age of farmers in this country keeps rising, and is darned near older than the age where most can reasonably be expected to be able to handle the job... it's because younger people take a good, long look at the job, the risks, the rewards and the chances that even if they're the best at farming in their state, they STILL may lose money more years than they make it. And even those who love the life, the work and the challenges think long and hard about whether or why.

It's going to take real hunger in this country- something that really hasn't been seen since the Great Depression years- before farmers are appreciated and paid proportionate to their worth again. Although they're more likely to be blamed than appreciated at that time, too!

Summerthyme