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Our Forests and Climate Change

Americans know the importance of forests to our communities and our economy.  They provide jobs and recreational opportunities, filter our air and water, and make up essential habitat for wildlife and natural resources.  But increasingly, we’re also recognizing that forests play an important role in mitigating climate change.

Recently, President Obama announced a Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare for the impacts of climate change on our communities and economy, and lead international efforts to combat global climate change. This plan recognizes that America’s forests play a critical role in addressing carbon pollution, absorbing as much as 14 percent of our country’s greenhouse gas emissions each year.  Over the last several decades, forest regrowth on former farm lands, reforestation, and maturing forests have kept our forest growth rates high, helping us absorb even more carbon.

Santo Domingo Pueblo Tackles Drought with NRCS Help

Just off the Rio Grande River, between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, N.M., sits Santo Domingo Pueblo, a community surrounded by fields of alfalfa, oats and Sudan grass for horses and cattle, and small gardens filled with corn and green chili peppers.

But this green idyll is in danger of drying out. Over the past few years, New Mexico has been struggling through one of the worst droughts in recorded history. Little rain and a dwindling river have threatened many of the Pueblo’s fields and gardens.

Alpine Team Leading the Way to Stewardship Success in Texas

When the sign-up window opened for USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) in 2012, the five-member NRCS Alpine Resource Team was ready. The team is responsible for more than nine million acres of the Trans-Pecos region of Texas, and protecting the region’s natural resources comes first.

CSP is a voluntary conservation program that encourages producers who are already participating in NRCS conservation programs to take their efforts to the next level. Participants address resource concerns in a comprehensive manner with financial and technical assistance from NRCS—not only by tackling new practices, but also by maintaining, improving and managing the existing conservation measures on their operation. The program, begun in 2009, was still fairly new in 2012.

NIFA Grant Addresses Climate Issues Related to Beef Cattle Production

Today, I am on the campus of Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. When I visit universities across the nation, I look forward to meeting with faculty and students to hear about the work they are doing. On this particular visit, I am excited to meet with a research team working on an issue important to all Americans: climate.

As most people are well aware, last year’s drought put tremendous stress on cattle across the nation, especially in the Southern Great Plains. Drought, along with other extreme weather events and climate patterns, threatens food production across the nation. The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has provided grant funds to land-grant universities across our nation to develop approaches to mitigate or adapt to the impact of climate change on food production. Earlier this year, NIFA awarded more than $9 million in funding to Oklahoma State University (OSU) to address the vulnerabilities of beef cattle under stress from climate variations. OSU’s goal is to safeguard regional beef production against climate change while mitigating the environmental footprint of agriculture.

South Dakota Producers Work with USDA to Recover From Flooding

Two years after the Missouri River flooding of 2011, several Charles Mix County, S.D. producers are still working to get their flooded crop land back to full production. When the flood waters receded in the fall of 2011 portions of the river bottom crop land were covered with one to six feet of sand debris. The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) for debris removal was one tool that was utilized in this restoration effort.

The Emergency Conservation Program assisted the flooded farmers with cost-share of up to 75 percent for the expense of removing this debris. Charles Mix County farmer Joe Fillaus and sons Cole and Carter had substantial sand debris to deal with. He used his own equipment to spread out and till in the areas with a foot or less sand.

Grazing Land Management Helps an Arkansas Farmer Reduce Effects of Extreme Drought

Cattle producers across Arkansas faced many challenges during the extreme drought of 2012. Luckily, grazing management strategies helped farmers like Randolph County’s Dale Courtney alleviate the drought’s effects.

With the assistance of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Courtney developed and implemented a conservation plan that included grazing management strategies, which helped to protect his operation from the worst of the drought and make it more efficient.

Following the conservation plan, he added electric fence and pipeline to funnel water to new tire tank watering facilities in each of his pastures.

Adapting to Climate Change and Drought Risk

Economists working on climate change spend a lot of time trying to predict how farmers are going to adapt.  Without knowing how farmers will react to higher average temperatures or different rainfall patterns, we cannot accurately say what climate change will mean for the future.  Farmers have many adaptation options available.  They can change the mix of crops they grow, as well as their production practices, and production might be redistributed across regions. The Economic Research Service (ERS) has looked at potential impacts including how some regions will be impacted through commodity price changes resulting from climate-driven crop acreage changes farmers make in other regions.

Have Crop Questions? NASS has Answers!

When it comes to growing crops, weather is a constantly changing variable. These past few years, grain farmers have been on a veritable weather roller coaster. The floods of 2011 were followed by perfect spring planting conditions in 2012. Conditions deteriorated rapidly, resulting in one of the worst droughts in at least 25 years. This year, the weather has thrown yet another knuckleball at farmers, idling field work and reducing plantings to the slowest pace since 1984 in many areas.

Age is Just a Number for 100-Year-old Farmer

Ms. Annie Faye Woodson has been directly involved in farming and ranching in Texas for the last 76 years. At 100 years-old she stays up-to-date on Farm Service Agency (FSA) program news and still makes trips to the Fannin County FSA office to sign up for farm programs and to certify acres.  It is no surprise that Woodson has seen many changes throughout her life on the farm.

"I rode in a wagon, buggy and tractor," said Woodson. "Technology is the biggest change I've seen in my lifetime."