Creating Modern Solutions for Environmental Challenges
Through this initiative, USDA will use authorities in the 2014 Farm Bill to provide incentives and technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, and forest land owners to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon.
Changing Climate Is Affecting Agriculture in the U.S.
Climate change presents real threats to U.S. agricultural production, forest resources, and rural economies. These threats have significant implications not just for farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners, but for all Americans. Land managers across the country are already feeling the pressures of a changing climate and its effects on weather. As these risks continue and amplify, producers will be faced with the challenges of adapting. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack gave a speech in June, 2013 outlining the growing weather-related risks to farming, foresting and ranching.
Some of these risks are:
- More severe storms - NOAA reported that 2012 was the second most intense year in our history for extreme weather events.
- Rising average temperatures - Higher temperatures mean increases in invasive species and costs for weed and pest control.
- Extremes in precipitation - In the Northeast, heavier, more intense rains threaten to reduce yields. In the Southwest, increased drought poses a challenge to nut, fruit and vegetable producers.
- More forest fires - The fire season is 60 days longer than it was 30 years ago. A recent Forest Service study predicts that the number of acres susceptible to fires could double by 2050.
Preparing for Increased Weather Risks
Regional Climate Hubs
In an effort to mitigate climate-related risks, USDA has established seven regional hubs for risk adaptation and mitigation to climate change. These Hubs will deliver science-based knowledge and practical information to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners on a regional basis to support decision-making related to climate change.
As part of the President's Climate Action Plan (PDF, 311KB), the Hubs will provide:
- Technical support for land managers to respond to drought, heat stress, floods, pests, and changes in the growing season.
- Assessments and regional forecasts for hazard and adaptation planning to provide more time to prepare.
- Outreach and education for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners on ways to mitigate risks and thrive despite change.
For more information on the Hubs, visit the USDA Climate Hubs Webpage.
Climate Solutions at USDA
USDA is taking steps to create modern solutions to the challenge of climate change. New uniform, science-based guidance on cover crop management helps producers prevent erosion, improve soil properties, supply nutrients to crops, suppress weeds, improve soil water content, and break pest cycles.
- Press Release: Secretary Vilsack Announces Regional Hubs to Help Agriculture, Forestry Mitigate the Impacts of a Changing Climate (February 5, 2014)
The following two assessments project climate impacts over the coming years:
- Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation (PDF, 11.8MB)
- Effects of Climatic Variability and Change on Forest Ecosystems: A Comprehensive Science Synthesis for the U.S. Forest Sector (PDF, 5.8MB)
USDA also released a Carbon Management Evaluation Tool (COMET-FARM) to help producers calculate how much carbon their land's soil and vegetation can remove from the atmosphere.