USDA Keeps Eye On Climate Change

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says that the Federal government must increase collaboration with producers, researchers and industry to develop the next generation of solutions that will help agriculture mitigate and adapt to modern climate challenges.

“Our farmers, ranchers and forest landowners are the most innovative on earth, and they’re up to the task of meeting environmental challenges that lay ahead,” Vilsack says. “We know what we’re seeing on the ground – more intense weather events and a greater number of them. USDA will be there to support the efforts of our farmers and ranchers to adapt to these new challenges, just as we have been for decades.”

Vilsack noted that under the Obama Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has taken a wide variety of proactive steps to prepare for climate challenges projected in the years ahead. This includes the development of Climate Adaptation Plans by USDA agencies to continue delivering quality service in the years and decades to come. Additionally, earlier this year, USDA released two Climate Assessments – one focused on the climate impacts to agriculture in the coming years, and a second focused on U.S. Forests.

Vilsack stressed the need to work closely with farmers and ranchers who stand “on the front line” of risk adaptation. He also announced a number of new measures that USDA will take to help these producers create new climate solutions.

Regional Climate Hubs

USDA will establish seven “Regional Climate Hubs” to work in partnership with producers and foresters. The Secretary calls them “Service centers for science-based risk management.” Working with other agencies, the hubs will serve as a source of regional data and information for hazard and adaptation planning. They will provide outreach and Extension to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners on science-based risk management and will seek to partner with land grant universities, Extension and the private sector.

The seven regional hubs will be established for the Northeast, Mid-west, Southeast, Northern Plains, Southern Plains, Pacific Northwest and Southwest. Each hub will be the center of a network of connected activities and services and will be located in a USDA facility within its region.

Cover Crop Guidelines

USDA agencies have worked together to provide new cover cropping guidelines. In the past, some producers have encountered conflicting cover crop management issues when working with multiple USDA agencies.

NRCS, Risk Management Agency (RMA) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) worked together to establish common, science-based guidance on when cover crops should be terminated. The agencies engaged stakeholders, partner universities and the crop insurance industry to make the cover crop guidelines. Secretary Vilsack announced new guidance for USDA agencies dealing with cover crops, using a new model based on local climate data, tillage management and soil information to account for daily crop growth and use of soil moisture.

With this information, experts determined the latest possible time to terminate a cover crop to minimize risk to the cash crop yield. RMA, NRCS and FSA will all uniformly refer producers to these guidelines and will use them to administer programs.

USDA contributed information for this article. Visit www.usda.gov.

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