Obama Administration Announces Climate Hubs To Aid Farmers
February 5, 2014

Obama Administration Announces Climate Hubs To Aid Farmers

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

On Wednesday, the Obama administration announced the creation of seven “climate hubs” located throughout the United States to help farmers and rural communities react to the threats of climate change. White House officials said the move is among multiple executive decisions that President Obama will take on climate change that do not require action from Congress.

Overseen by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the hubs will be tasked with investigating fires, intrusive pests, flooding and droughts. They will also use data to supply guidance to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners in managing these problems.

“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,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement released prior to the official announcement.

“For generations, America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners have innovated and adapted to challenges,” Vilsack said. “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.”

The hubs are set to be located in Ames, IA; Durham, NH; Raleigh, NC; Fort Collins, CO; El Reno, OK; Corvallis, OR; and Las Cruces, NM.

With the objective to create them announced last summer, the hubs are also designed to connect a broad network of partners participating in climate risk mitigation and adaptation, including “universities; non-governmental organizations; federal agencies such as the Department of Interior and the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration; Native organizations and Nations; state departments of ecosystem and agriculture; research centers; farm groups and more,” according to a statement on the USDA website.

In citing a need for the creation of the hubs, the USDA noted that agricultural growing seasons have lengthened by almost 2 weeks since 1950. The fire season is also now 60 days longer than it was three decades ago. The agency said climate-related events threaten our food supply and are costly for producers and rural economies. Drought alone was estimated to cost the country $50 billion from 2011 to 2013.

"This is the next step in USDA's decades of work alongside farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to keep up production in the face of challenges," Vilsack said. "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. That's why we're bringing all of that information together on a regionally-appropriate basis."

Despite the potential benefits to farmers and landowners, many rural communities are highly skeptical of anything involving the federal government – particularly the EPA, which regulates the use of pesticides and other agricultural activities.

The EPA is said to be drawing up regulations that will limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants – many of which are located in rural communities. Nebraska is currently suing the federal government over draft regulation issued in September, which would cut carbon emissions from newly-constructed coal-fired power plants.