While side-stepping the debate over whether climate change is man-made, on Tuesday afternoon (June 25) President Obama is set to unveil a series of proposals aimed at ameliorating the effects of warming temperatures.

How might agriculture be affected?

The strategies were previewed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during a June 5 presentation. This followed several reports released in the last six months that were authored by USDA scientists on how climate change will affect agriculture and forests in coming years (more here).

"Our farmers, ranchers and forest landowners are the most innovative on earth, and they're up to the task of meeting environmental challenges that lay ahead," Vilsack said.

Like Obama, Vilsack did not engage the claims of climate change skeptics. Instead, he offered up a list of what’s being seen “on the ground.” That includes, “more severe storms. We're facing more invasive species. More intense forest fire threatens communities each year. (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) reported that 2012 was the second most intense year in our history for extreme weather events -- droughts, flooding, hurricanes, severe storms and devastating wildfire. NOAA also advised that last year was the warmest on record for the continental United States.”

Currently, U.S. farmers, through the use of new technologies and agronomic practices, have kept production up even in the face of so many problems. Vilsack warned, however, that, “the latest science tells us that the threat of a changing climate is new and different from anything we've ever tackled.”

As a result, the Obama administration is proposing the following:

  • Regional Climate Hubs.

The USDA will establish seven of the hubs – in the Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, Northern Plains, Southern Plains, Pacific Northwest, and Southwest.

“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,” said Vilsack. “That's why we're bringing all of that information together on a regionally-appropriate basis.”

As “service centers for science-based risk management,” the hubs, “will enhance coordination of the science assets of USDA. They'll encourage folks to accelerate the development and delivery of forecasts and solutions to improve risk management in ways that matter for folks on the ground.”

The Hubs will also provide, “regionally-appropriate climate change risk and vulnerability assessments, and get data out to the field more quickly. Practically, the hubs will deal out advice to farmers and forest owners on ways to reduce risks and manage change.”

The hubs will be starting points, “to further implement new strategies for adaptation, soil health and water protection. One very promising example is the possibility of multi-cropping production that will add additional nutrient value to the soil, better protect cropland, store more carbon and allow producers to expand income.”

Furthering carbon sequestration markets will also be a focus for the hubs.

In the effort, said Vilsack, “we intend to fully leverage our relationship with the Land Grant and public universities, agricultural experiment stations, and Extension to provide new platforms for collaboration.”