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USDA is Acting on Climate and We Have a Plan

Posted by William Hohenstein, Director, USDA Climate Change Program Office in
Oct 31, 2014
Soybeans show the effect of the Texas drought near Navasota, TX on Aug. 21, 2013. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.
Soybeans show the effect of the Texas drought near Navasota, TX on Aug. 21, 2013. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

We know that there are climate change risks and vulnerabilities facing agriculture that have significant implications not just for farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners, but for all Americans and the world. That’s why we are working on measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate change impacts such as flooding, sea level rise, severe weather and temperature extremes.

Today’s release of the USDA Sustainability Plans and Climate Change Adaptation Plans coincide with the fifth anniversary of President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order on Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance, which set aggressive energy, climate and environmental targets for agencies, and detail how USDA’s actions have already contributed to reducing the Federal Government’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than 17 percent since 2008 – the equivalent of permanently taking 1.8 million cars off the road.

USDA’s strategic plan provides a foundation for climate change adaptation planning and presents detailed actions that will be taken across the Department. Over the past year, eleven USDA agencies and offices also developed detailed plans to address growing risks from climate change and climate variability.  Each Agency identified risks and specific actions and steps they could take to build their agency’s resilience to climate change.  Meanwhile, USDA has already taken a number of steps to reduce climate risks, including:

  • Launching of Regional Climate Hubs to provide technical support, assessments and regional forecasts and outreach and education to stakeholders at the regional and local levels;
  • Assisting crop insurance services by introducing new online tools and data that streamline the response to climate change impacts on crop production;
  • Establishing new guidance on forest planning that includes consideration of the impacts of climate change.  Eleven national forest management plans are currently being revised;
  • Expanding the adoption of conservation practices that increase resilience to climate variability;
  • Restoring national forests and grasslands (2.5 million acres in 2013) to make them more resilient and to maintain function, productivity, and adaptive capacity.
  • Helping rural communities maintain local watersheds and reduce the impacts of extreme precipitation and drought by rejuvenating flood control dams.

The Department is modernizing federal programs to support climate resilient investments including enhanced energy efficiency and conservation loan programs.  We are also working with partners to develop and provide easily accessible, usable, and timely data, information and decision-support tools on climate preparedness and resilience. Some of these include educational courses, inventory and monitoring systems, greenhouse gas protocols and mitigation options, and the USDA Greenhouse Gas Inventory – all designed to help farmers, ranchers and rural business owners make smart, data-driven decisions about their businesses.

USDA is working across our agencies to help mitigate the impacts of climate change while also making sure that our Nation’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners are ready to adapt to the challenges it will pose. You can read more about USDA’s climate solutions on our website: