FAQ: USDA recently announced regional locations to address the impacts of a changing climate. Where are these research and information gathering centers located and what will they do?
Answer: In early February U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced creation of the first-ever Regional Hubs for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change at seven locations around the country. These "Climate Hubs" will be overseen by USDA. They will study fires, invasive pests, flooding and droughts using the research to provide guidance to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to cope with the problems.
Vilsack said "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 announcement came on the heels of President Obama vowing in his State of the Union Address to act aggressively on learning more about climate change and how to mitigate climate change. The first climate hubs will be in Ames, Iowa; Durham, N.H.; Raleigh, N.C.; Fort Collins, Colo.; El Reno, Okla.; Corvallis, Ore.; and Las Cruces, N.M. Three subsidiary hubs will be established in Houghton, Mich.; Pio Piedras, Puerto Rico; and Davis, Calif. They will focus on narrower issues than the main regional hubs.
Vilsack first spoke about creating the climate hubs last year, while emphasizing the need for farmers, ranchers and foresters to adapt their management to cope with climate change.
USDA's Climate Hubs are part of a broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions
The Hubs will provide outreach and information to farmers 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'll also link a broad network of partners participating in climate risk adaptation and mitigation, including universities; non-government organizations; federal agencies such as the U.S. 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.
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, said Vilsack. For example, 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. Drought alone was estimated to cost the U.S. $50 billion from 2011 to 2013. Such risks have implications not only for agricultural producers, but for all Americans, he added.
Climate Hubs will provide regional networks on climate science, forecasting impacts, looking for solutions
"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."
The Climate Hubs will build on the capacity within USDA to deliver science-based knowledge and practical information to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to support decision-making related to climate change across the country. For more information, visit the USDA website.