The White House’s New Plan To Help Farmers Grappling With Climate Change

CREDIT: AP Photo / Susan Walsh

President Barack Obama at right, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at left.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is scheduled to announce the creation of seven climate “hubs” throughout the country on Wednesday — part of the White House’s ongoing efforts to tackle climate change.

The first of their kind, and officially dubbed “Regional Hubs for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change,” the centers will look into climate forecasting and data, risk assessment, and how to adapt farming and livestock practices to climate change and new forms of extreme weather. They’ll also serve as an information and coordination hub for their particular region, linking farmers and ranchers up with universities, government agencies, scientific research centers, and other groups in an effort to spread the best farming practices and the best climate adaptation strategies.

“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,” Vilsack said.

“Today, [America’s farmers] 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 seven main hubs will be built on top of agricultural and research centers that are already in operation:

For the Midwest: the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, Agricultural Research Service, in Ames, Iowa.

For the Northeast: the Northern Research Station, Forest Service, in Durham, New Hampshire.

For the Southeast: the Southern Research Station, Forest Service, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

For the Northern Plains: the National Resources Center, Agricultural Research Service, in Fort Collins, Colorado.

For the Southern Plains: the Grazinglands Research Lab, Agricultural Research Service, in El Reno, Oklahoma.

For the Pacific Northwest: the Pacific Northwest Research Station, Forest Service, in Corvallis, Oregon.

For the Southwest: the Rangeland Management Unit / Jornada Experimental Range, Agricultural Research Service, in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Three of those hubs will also have a subsidiary hub, dedicated to more specific issues. The “sub-hub” for the Midwest will be in Houghton, Michigan, and will focus on climate change; the Southwest sub-hub will be in Davis, California, and will be devoted to specialty crops and the southwest forests; and the Southeast sub-hub will be in Pio Piedras, Puerto Rico, and will look into the health of the Caribbean.

Rural communities in Republican districts have often been suspicious of the Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates agricultural activities, and President Obama’s plan to use EPA’s regulatory authority to cut carbon emissions has also drawn protests. So another aim of the seven hubs is to function as a show of outreach and good faith to those residents, offering support after many farming communities were pounded by droughts from 2011 to 2013.