The White House announced last week that it is establishing “climate hubs” in seven states, including Colorado, to address the risks a changing climate poses on farming and forest management.
The hubs, also located in Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Oregon, will gather research on local risks to agriculture and forestry, and then provide farmers with recommendations on how to adapt to shifting weather patterns.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said during a Feb. 5 news conference that climate change already plays a significant role in crop and livestock production, as well as in the expansion of pests and diseases. Vilsack cited the early snow storms that killed tens of thousands of South Dakota cattle and the ongoing drought in California as examples of how farmer are being affected.
“The president has been quite insistent in Cabinet meetings and in private meetings that he expects his Cabinet to be forceful and to act; we can’t wait for congressional action,” Vilsack said during the news conference.
President Barack Obama used executive action to create the hubs in coordination with his Climate Action Plan. The plan focuses on responsibly cutting carbon pollution, slowing the effects of climate change and putting America on track to a cleaner environment.
Many environmentalists praised Obama’s decision to help farmers mitigate and adapt to climate change. Others criticized the White House for making the announcement on the heels of a State Department report, mostly favorable, on another contentious environmental subject, the Keystone XL oil pipeline project.
Vilsack said the hubs will be important in helping the nation’s economy and the 16 million people in agriculture-related employment. The new program will take advantage of partnerships with land-grant universities and federal agencies.
“It will be a coordinated effort between our Agricultural Research Service, our Forest Service, and our NRCS — the Natural Research Conservation Service,” he said. “This will allow us to identify ways in which we can make a difference, and then use the tools that are now being provided with a passage of the farm bill.”
The Northern Plains hub will be based out of the National Resources Center, Agricultural Research Service in Fort Collins. The hub will collect data on the natural risks Colorado, the Dakotas, Montana, Nebraska and Wyoming face including extreme rain/snow storms, severe drought and longer, hotter growing seasons.