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climate change

Puerto Rico: Collaborating for the Future of Our Climate

Climate change has been deemed one of the greatest challenges facing agriculture, world food security, and human development in the 21st century.  It’s a challenge that USDA is working to mitigate while also making sure that our farmers, ranchers and forest landowners are ready to adapt to the challenges it will pose. Just last year we announced the creation of several regional climate hubs -- information centers that help to connect a community of farmers, ranchers, researchers and partners committed to finding viable climate solutions. One area that’s been identified as particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change is the Caribbean.

On a recent trip to Puerto Rico, I had the pleasure of visiting the USDA Caribbean Climate Sub Hub in Rio Piedras where I was joined by the Puerto Rico Secretary of Agriculture Hon. Myrna Comas and the Puerto Rico Secretary of Natural Resources Hon. Carmen Guerrero. I was truly impressed by the collaboration taking place at the Caribbean Climate Sub Hub at every level – federal, state, and local. While at the hub, I saw some examples of products, from musical instruments to home decor, made from native wood grown on the island. By working collaboratively with the hub, local producers are able to harvest native woods in a way that both supports forest health and creates new market opportunities.

One Year Later - USDA in the Brave New World of Open Data

It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since USDA embarked on its push to make its data available to you.  As you know, open data is free, public data that can be used to: launch commercial and nonprofit ventures; conduct research; make data-driven decisions; and help solve complex problems. It is our hope that USDA data fosters innovation, economic growth and improves American lives. While USDA continues to collect and make available USDA datasets to the public, we also are engaging stakeholders so that we can use that feedback to improve future data submissions.

One year later, USDA has published over 800 data sets on and  Considering the vast mission of the Department, we are proud of this accomplishment, specifically:

The USDA Climate Hubs: Almost One Year Old and Making Progress

The USDA Climate Hubs are almost one year old!  Since February of 2014, we have made considerable progress by developing networks that connect researchers to landowners; by evaluating available tools that can help land managers with management decisions regarding risk management; by synthesizing regional risks and vulnerabilities; and we have learned a lot along the way.

The Hubs are about developing and delivering science-based, region-specific information and technologies, with the help of USDA agencies and partners, to agricultural and natural resource managers and communities.  Land managers and communities desire healthy, resilient, productive, and profitable agricultural or natural ecosystems that are sustainable over time. The Hubs’ role is to work with (and as) advisers to land managers by providing information and tools to help them achieve their goals in an environment filled with climate-related stresses and risks.  The Hubs’ initial focus is on communicating with our stakeholders and developing networks with our partners. This includes communicating research to Certified Crop Advisors, relaying stakeholder needs to science organizations, or just making sure the lines of communication are open among the respective science and information providers and managers of working lands.

USDA is Acting on Climate and We Have a Plan

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.

Under Secretary Bonnie Tells World Congress of Scientists Their Work will Light the Way to Better Forest Management

Confronting climate change will be substantially cheaper and easier if we conserve forests, and the key to that is expert knowledge and science, Undersecretary of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Bonnie told thousands of attendees at the recent 24th World Congress of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“A healthy and prosperous planet depends on the health of our natural resources and, in particular, on the conservation of the world’s forests,” Bonnie told the crowd, which included 2,492 delegates from 100 countries.  “But our success in conserving, managing and restoring our forests depends to a significant degree on a solid foundation of science and research.”

New Southeast Climate Hub Website Contains Information for Producers and Partners

As of this week, there is a new online resource for information about the USDA Climate Hubs: The site features a variety of national and regional content on climate variability and its effects on working lands-including a new suite of pages specific to the Southeast Hub.

Within the Southeast Hub pages, you’ll find info on important regional assessmentsdata and research products, and key educational materials to help farmers, land managers, Extension agents, and other partners adapt to climate related stressors.

USDA Climate Hubs Website: Connecting Stakeholders to the Hubs

I’m happy to announce that as of today, the USDA Climate Hubs have an official home on the web. The new site provides a portal for farmers, ranchers, forest landowners, and others to find useful, practical information to help cope with the challenges and stressors caused by a changing climate. We hope this site will serve as a gateway not only to the information and tools provided by the regional Hubs, but also to the larger network of USDA programs that provide conservation and planning support to land managers.

The Hubs Site comprises a suite of pages specific to each region across the country.  By browsing through the pages for each region, you can find information on agriculture and forestry vulnerabilities related to climate change and tools to cope with these changes. You’ll also find more information about the Hubs program, and contact information to get in touch with the right specialist in your area.

Secretary's Column: Family Farmers Do More Than Feed the World

Earlier today, Secretary Vilsack posted a guest column on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations blog in honor of World Food Day. The UN General Assembly has designated 2014 “International Year of Family Farming.” This is a strong signal that the international community recognizes the important contribution of family farmers to world food security.

The headlines today can often seem bleak: worries of terrorism, global health, climate change, drought and hunger dominate the news cycle. These are extraordinarily complex and challenging issues that will impact and forever transform the lives of future generations.

Solving them is not simply about military or economic might. While they are not always fully appreciated and recognized for their capacity to address these challenges, I believe the role that agriculture and family farmers can play is significant.

US Forest Service Keeping Score on Climate Change

Day after day we’re seeing more impacts from climate change, and many concerned folks want to know what exactly their government is doing about it. In other words, who’s keeping score on what we’re doing as our climate warms?

With this in mind, the U.S. Forest Service has developed something it calls the Climate Change Performance Scorecard. The scorecard was created as a way for the Forest Service to measure how well it was responding to climate change and to keep track of experiences and best practices so others could learn from them.

Announcing the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition to Innovate Building Construction

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council:

As part of the Obama administration's commitment to mitigate climate change, USDA, in partnership with the Softwood Lumber Board and the Binational Softwood Lumber Council, is announcing the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition. This competitive prize, open to teams of architects, engineers, and developers, will showcase the architectural and commercial viability of advanced wood products like Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) in tall buildings.

Advanced wood products are becoming the latest innovation in tall building construction. Products like CLT are flexible, strong, and fire resistant. In construction, wood products can be used as a successful and sustainable alternative to concrete, masonry, and steel. Using wood also reduces greenhouse gas emissions by storing carbon and simultaneously offsetting emissions from conventional building materials. By some estimates, the near term use of CLT and other emerging wood technologies in buildings 7-15 stories could have the same emissions control affect as taking more than 2 million cars off the road for one year.