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USDA Science Adapts to Communities’ Climate Needs

Posted by Gretchen Kroh, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow, Office of the Chief Scientist in Research and Science
Nov 09, 2022
C.G. Merlo Ranch in San Saba, Texas

Unprecedented floods in Kentucky and Yellowstone, a megadrought in the Southwest, historic wildfires in Alaska—these are some of the many consequences climate change has already wrought onto diverse American communities in 2022, alone. These increasingly common extreme weather events disproportionately affect American rural communities and producers.

In addition to the personal devastation, each extreme weather event presents unique climate vulnerabilities that affect different communities at different rates. For instance, abrupt and extreme flooding restricts access to rural areas, while a megadrought strains water use and other resources. Underserved communities and producers are even more vulnerable to extreme weather events because of limited access to needed resources.

USDA scientists are developing innovative solutions to help American producers respond and adapt to climate vulnerabilities. USDA’s Research, Education and Economics (REE) mission area has developed responsive support for underserved communities through the White House Justice40 Initiative and the REE Agency Climate Adaptation and Resilience Plans. REE is committed to increasing outreach to engage diverse stakeholders in addressing unique climate vulnerabilities and seeking community-based input on climate research priorities.

For example, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Census of Agriculture relies on responses from all agricultural communities to paint a full picture of U.S. agriculture. To carry out the Census of Agriculture, NASS actively expands its outreach to underrepresented producers by cultivating relationships with Community-Based Organizations (CBO) that represent unique farming and ranching communities across America. Partnerships with CBOs have helped NASS to improve the Census reach to accurately represent all agricultural communities, so decisions that directly impact them are made with the best information available.

Community-based practices will improve USDA’s understanding of how rural and underserved communities experience climate change. USDA science aims to ensure innovations benefit the breadth of rural communities and U.S. ag producers in adapting to climate extremes.

Category/Topic: Research and Science