2014-2016, Vanderbilt University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison CIAS worked together on a project “Estimating the future demands on agricultural freight transport in the Upper Midwest U.S. due to climate change using remote sensing and regional climate models.” This mixed methods project started with a qualitative assessment of grain movements in the region, and then employed empirical methods to predict climate change for our region, document current grain movements, and suggest future scenarios.
A reoccurring challenge with increasing fuel prices is optimization of multi- and inter-modal freight transport to move products most efficiently. Projections for the future of agriculture in the United States (U.S.) combined with regional climate models indicate a shift in warm temperatures northward and potential shift in agricultural growing seasons and conditions for optimized crop yield which leads to a potential change in how much and where freight to move these crops will be needed in the future. Given recent history, the country is already experiencing changes in regional weather trends and growing seasons likely due to climate change and these can be used as indicators of future changes. It would be beneficial for freight carriers to have an awareness of where and to what extent fleets will be needed to continue export of grains from the upper Midwest to the rest of the U.S. and the world.
CIAS worked with the Center for Climatic Research, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, UW-Madison to tell the story of crops transport along the Upper Mississippi River and our changing climate. The report features insights from interviews with Olivia Dorothy, American Rivers; Mayor Tim Kabat, City of La Crosse, Wisconsin; Margaret Krome, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute; Mark Muller, The McKnight Foundation; Logan Peterman, Organic Valley; Pam Porter, UW-Madison CIAS; Tom Quinn, Wisconsin Farmers Union; and Sheri Walz, Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
The Vanderbilt team used recent historical climate and crop information combined with regional climate modeling and other tools to project forward the demands on freight transportation for the upper Midwest grain distribution in the future.
Michelle Miller and Rebecca Jolley, UW-CIAS
David Lorenz, UW Center for Climatic Research
Janie Camp and Paul Johnson, Vanderbilt University
Funding for this project was from the National Center for Freight & Infrastructure Research & Education (CFIRE),
University of Wisconsin-Madison. CFIRE is funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration.