Today, I am on the campus of Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. When I visit universities across the nation, I look forward to meeting with faculty and students to hear about the work they are doing. On this particular visit, I am excited to meet with a research team working on an issue important to all Americans: climate.
As most people are well aware, last year’s drought put tremendous stress on cattle across the nation, especially in the Southern Great Plains. Drought, along with other extreme weather events and climate patterns, threatens food production across the nation. The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has provided grant funds to land-grant universities across our nation to develop approaches to mitigate or adapt to the impact of climate change on food production. Earlier this year, NIFA awarded more than $9 million in funding to Oklahoma State University (OSU) to address the vulnerabilities of beef cattle under stress from climate variations. OSU’s goal is to safeguard regional beef production against climate change while mitigating the environmental footprint of agriculture.
As we work to develop long-term strategies to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate on agriculture, it will be important to also educate and train the next generation of scientists and producers on these issues. This OSU-led project also includes education and Extension components to educate the pipeline of students interested in agriculture and to deliver knowledge to producers. Using a community- and citizen-science approach, the project will train young students and citizens to use GPS-enabled digital cameras and smartphones and web data portals to participate in field data collection.
This project is but one part of USDA’s larger plan to address climate challenges. Secretary Vilsack laid out his vision earlier this year, including the need to increase collaboration with producers, researchers and industry to develop solutions that will help agriculture mitigate and adapt to extreme weather and climate patterns. This work also builds upon USDA’s strategy that includes the creation of seven regional climate hubs to work in partnership with producers and foresters, the development of technical tools for producers, and researchers and providing new uniform, science-based cover crop guidelines.
USDA is committed to funding quality science that can help discover innovative solutions to the effects of climate on agriculture. By taking collaborative, regionally-appropriate steps today to adapt to threats, USDA can help American agriculture continue its tremendous productivity in the years to come.