White House Looks to Harden Farm Country Against Climate Change

Dave Fendrich (in tractor) helps Bryant Hofer (in combine) harvest a field of corn on October 2, 2013 near Salem, South Dakota. During last year's drought Hofer averaged about 85 bushels of corn per acre. Although he has just started to harvest his fields, this year Bryants corn has averaged 180 bushels-per-acre. According to the Commerce Department, farm earnings nationwide were down 14.6% during the second quarter of the year. Many Midwest states, which are rebounding from last year's severe drought, reported some of the biggest drops. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
Feb. 5, 2014, 12:51 a.m.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is cre­at­ing sev­en re­gion­al or­gan­iz­a­tions—dubbed “cli­mate hubs”—de­signed to help farm­ers and rur­al areas ad­apt to drought, in­creased fire risks, and oth­er prob­lems linked to glob­al warm­ing.

Wed­nes­day’s an­nounce­ment of the Ag­ri­cul­ture De­part­ment-led hubs is part of the White House’s ef­forts to use ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions to battle cli­mate change. The White House is pro­mot­ing the ini­ti­at­ive, and Ag­ri­cul­ture Sec­ret­ary Tom Vil­sack will tout the ef­fort at Wed­nes­day’s White House press brief­ing.

” ‘Cli­mate Hubs’ 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,” an Ag­ri­cul­ture De­part­ment sum­mary states.

The “hubs” will be in Col­or­ado, Iowa, New Hamp­shire, New Mex­ico, North Car­o­lina, Ok­lahoma, and Ore­gon. And there will be “sub hubs” in Cali­for­nia, Michigan, and Pu­erto Rico.

The hubs are de­signed to provide in­form­a­tion to farm­ers, forest own­ers, and ranch­ers about ways to re­duce risks and help link them “cli­mate fore­cast data,” among oth­er ser­vices.

Ac­cord­ing to the sum­mary, they’re en­vi­sioned as a place that draws to­geth­er vari­ous strands of in­form­a­tion and ex­pert­ise.

“They will … link a broad net­work of part­ners par­ti­cip­at­ing in cli­mate-risk ad­apt­a­tion and mit­ig­a­tion, in­clud­ing uni­versit­ies; non­gov­ern­ment­al 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; farm groups and more,” the Ag­ri­cul­ture De­part­ment said.

The chan­ging cli­mate is high-stakes busi­ness for farm­ers and the pub­lic they sup­port, of­fi­cials em­phas­ized. Fire sea­sons are much longer than they were 30 years ago, while drought cost the U.S. $50 bil­lion between 2011 and 2013, ac­cord­ing to the de­part­ment.

“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 said in a state­ment.

The an­nounce­ment fol­lows this week’s con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al of the massive farm bill.

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