The impacts of climate change are already affecting the production and profitability of agricultural systems, and these trends are expected to continue in the future. Without support from ecosystem functions, an agricultural system designed exclusively to maximize short-term production is vulnerable to extreme weather events such as droughts and floods. This results in high costs for farmers and ultimately for society at large, in economic and ecological terms. Complex agroecosystems that maximize biological interactions and conserve soil are better protected from extreme events, and thus are overall more resilient to climate change. This paper reviews the evidence demonstrating greater resilience on farms that maximize diversity, build soil organic matter, and incorporate other... agroecological or ‘sustainable’ practices. We then discuss the current water crisis in California in the context of the vulnerability of our current agricultural systems to climate change, highlighting this as an opportunity to redirect agricultural policies and economic incentives. The projected increase in the frequency and intensity of climate extremes calls for policies that are concerned not only with present crises, but that also encourage a new culture of forward-thinking practices around land and water use. We highlight France’s new Law for the Future of Agriculture, Food and Forestry as an example of national policy supporting agroecology. Applying an agroecological approach to increase resilience will enable the U.S. to tackle the twin challenges of food production and increasing climatic unpredictability.