Climate Change Affects Agriculture

Regional Hubs Help Agriculture Deal With Climate Change

Alan Harman

In a dramatic recognition of the threat from climate change, the U.S. government announces the creation of seven regional hubs to help agriculture and forestry mitigate the impacts of global warming.

The hubs will provide regional networks on climate science, forecasting impacts as part of President Barack Obama’s climate action plan.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the first-ever regional hubs for risk adaptation and mitigation to climate change will address increasing risks such as fires, invasive pests, devastating floods, and crippling droughts on a regional basis, aiming to translate science and research into information to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners on ways to adapt and adjust their resource management.

The hubs’ locations:

Midwest: National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, Agricultural Research Service, Ames, Iowa (Sub-Hub in Houghton, MI).

Northeast: Northern Research Station, Forest Service, Durham, N.H.

Southeast: Southern Research Station, Forest Service, Raleigh, N.C. (Sub-hub in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico).

Northern Plains: National Resources Center, Agricultural Research Service, Fort Collins, Colo.

Southern Plains: Grazinglands Research Lab, Agricultural Research Service, El Reno, Okla.

Pacific Northwest: Pacific Northwest Research Station, Forest Service, Corvallis, Ore.

Southwest: Rangeland Management Unit/Jornada Experimental Range, Agricultural Research Service, Las Cruces, N.M. (Sub-hub in Davis, CA).

The hubs are part of Obama’s plan to cut carbon pollution, slow the effects of climate change and put America on track to a cleaner environment.

Vilsack says that for generations, America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners have innovated and adapted to challenges.

“Today, they face a new and more complex threat in the form of a changing and shifting climate, which impacts both our nation’s forests and our farmers’ bottom lines,” he says.

“USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.”

The hubs will provide outreach and information to producers on ways to mitigate risks; public education about the risks climate change poses to agriculture, ranchlands and forests; regional climate risk and vulnerability assessments; and centers of climate forecast data and information.

They will also link a broad network of partners participating in climate risk adaptation and mitigation, including universities; non-governmental organizations; federal agencies such as the Department of Interior and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; native nations and organizations; state departments of environment and agriculture; research centers; and farm groups.

Across the country, farmers, ranchers and forest landowners are seeing an increase in risks to their operations due to fires, increases in invasive pests, droughts, and floods.

In the Midwest, growing seasons have lengthened by almost two weeks since 1950. The fire season is now 60 days longer than it was 30 years ago, and forests will become increasingly threatened by insect outbreaks, fire, drought and storms over the next 50 years.

“These events threaten our food supply and are costly for producers and rural economies,” Vilsack says.

Drought alone was estimated to cost the U.S. $50 billion from 2011 to 2013.

The hubs were chosen through a competitive process among USDA facilities.

In addition to the seven hubs, USDA is designating three subsidiary hubs (sub hubs) that will function within the Southeast, Midwest, and Southwest.

The sub hubs will support the hub within their region and focus on a narrow and unique set of issues relative to what will be going on in the rest of the Hub. The Southwest sub hub, located in Davis, Calif., will focus on specialty crops and Southwest forests, the Southeast sub hub will address issues important to the Caribbean, and the Midwest sub hub will address climate change and lake state forests.

“If we are to be effective in managing the risks from a shifting climate, we’ll need to ensure that our managers in the field and our stakeholders have the information they need to succeed,” Vilsack says. “That’s why we’re bringing all of that information together on a regionally appropriate basis.”