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The President’s New Executive Order on Climate Preparedness: Another Step to Support American Agriculture

Today, President Obama established a Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience to advise the Administration on how the Federal Government can respond to the needs of communities facing the impacts of climate change. This is an important step in our shared effort to respond to climate change – and like the President’s broader Climate Action Plan, it will help American agriculture mitigate and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate.

America’s farmers, ranchers and landowners have long been tremendous stewards of our environment. At USDA, we have worked with a record number of producers and landowners over the course of the Obama Administration to help conserve the soil and water, and clean our air – more than half a million over the past four and a half years. Meanwhile, in support of the Climate Action Plan, USDA put forward a series of new policies in June to help agriculture develop new climate solutions in the months and years to come. We have taken steps to create seven new regional climate hubs that will aid in sharing climate information for farmers and ranchers. We released the results of the Rapid Carbon Assessment – the largest-ever survey of soil carbon to help improve research efforts. And our new COMET-Farm tool provides a way for producers to see the impacts conservation practices could have on their land. Read more »

Forest Service Program Introduces Kids to Natural Resource Careers

Two students with the Youth Forest Monitoring Program monitor the impact of weeds in a meadow near Webb Lake in the Scapegoat Wilderness. Forest Service photo.

Two students with the Youth Forest Monitoring Program monitor the impact of weeds in a meadow near Webb Lake in the Scapegoat Wilderness. Forest Service photo.

In an age where technology tends to focus the attention of youth indoors, getting kids outdoors and interested in natural resource careers is even more vital today.

Since 1998, an innovative U.S. Forest Service seven-week summer program in central Montana has been achieving that goal by immersing high school students in forest management. They gather data and present findings to Forest Service officials and other representatives in their local communities.

Students involved with the Youth Forest Monitoring Program spend the summer monitoring the health of the national forests at a variety of different locations in the area, but one of the high points is their three-day trip into the Scapegoat Wilderness on the Helena National Forest northwest of Lincoln, Mont. Though the area isn’t far from where many of these students have grown up, the trip gives them the opportunity to experience a protected area many had never visited before. Earlier this year, 13 students along with four field instructors were there to gather data on recreation impacts, water quality and document the spread of invasive weeds. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: As Conferees Convene, Priorities for a Farm Bill

While rural Americans have already waited too long for passage of a new Food, Farm and Jobs bill, this week brought a promising new development. Conferees from the Senate and House met to begin work on the creation of a bipartisan, long-term Farm Bill. Their work could not be more timely – and they are in the spotlight now more than ever before.

The Farm Bill is crucial to America’s farmers, ranchers and producers. It provides a necessary safety net for producers centered around a strong crop insurance program and a dependable set of disaster assistance programs. The last two years of drought and other weather-related disasters underscores how important that safety net is to keeping producers in business.

The Farm Bill’s importance extends beyond the farm safety net. Read more »