November 20, 2020

Future U.S. Agricultural Production Impacted by Domestic and International Changes

To accurately model future U.S. agricultural production, changes in international crop yields cannot be ignored

Bright sun over a field of green crops

Impacts that occur outside the U.S. have economic consequences for U.S.-based agricultural producers of a similar order of magnitude, but opposite sign to domestic changes.

(Image by Jake Gard |

The Science

Crop yields are affected by changes in environmental factors, including temperature and precipitation. Yields are also impacted by producer choices: what to plant, what to harvest, whether to irrigate, or whether to apply fertilizer. These choices are informed by economic factors including commodity prices that are often shaped by global markets. How do the effects of these direct and indirect factors balance for U.S. producers? Despite the uncertainty in the modeling of many of these changes, both direct domestic and indirect international elements have clear consequences for U.S. crop yields. Meaningful analysis must account for the indirect effects of changing crop yields globally, which can alter the overall financial outcome for U.S. agriculture producers. 

The Impact

The direct and indirect effects of changing crop yields have significant implications for the prediction of future economic conditions for agricultural products. In the chosen global model, the two effects were of the same order of magnitude but had opposite signs. Thus, neglecting either category would alter the final conclusions. When modeling to achieve country-specific analysis of projected crop yield and production trends, the impacts of the indirect effects that arise from international markets cannot be ignored. 


Agricultural crop yields are susceptible to future changes in Earth system attributes, including temperature and precipitation. The magnitude and direction of these changes and their effects on agricultural crop yields are highly uncertain. Agricultural producers in the U.S. will be affected by such changes whether they occur domestically or internationally (propagated through international commodity markets). Despite this uncertainty, modeling shows that the potential direct domestic changes in crop yields in the U.S. have effects on U.S. producer revenue at the same order of magnitude, but with a sign opposite to the indirect financial impacts of changes in international crop yields. An analysis of country-specific projected crop yield and production trends cannot ignore the indirect effects arising from international markets. The results are robust across a wide range of potential future crop yield scenarios, which included coordinated changes in water availability for agricultural irrigation, analyzed using the multi-sector dynamic Global Change Analysis Model. 

PNNL Contact

Mohamad Hejazi, JGCRI/PNNL, 


This research was supported by the MultiSector Dynamics, Earth and Environmental System Modeling Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research Program. 

Published: November 20, 2020

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