I care deeply about conserving our land, soil and water and know that farmers are incredible stewards of the land. Prior to coming to USDA, I served as CEO of the National Association of Conservation Districts. I know firsthand that improving water conservation requires innovative technologies and partnerships.
In honor of World Water Day, I spoke to the U.S. Water Partnership on the critical role conservation plays in agriculture. According to the 2012 National Intelligence Community Assessment, about 70 percent of the global fresh water supply is devoted to agriculture. USDA and its partners play an important role in ensuring that producers have the water resources necessary to produce the food, fuel and fiber needed by Americans and our trading partners around the world. It’s an important part of our mission.
The world’s population is growing; weather is becoming less predictable and more extreme. The recent drought in California – the state’s worst in 500 years – had a serious impact on the state’s $44 billion agriculture sector. In response, the USDA and Partnership members are leveraging resources and expertise to build farmers’ resilience.
The Department recently announced the creation of Climate Hubs to deliver information to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to help them adapt to climate change and weather variability. The Hubs will build capacity within USDA to provide information and guidance on technologies and risk management practices at regional and local scales. Secretary Vilsack joined President Obama in California to announce that USDA and partners will provide funds to farmers for water conservation efforts and assist them in building resilience to drought.
While USDA is leading the effort to promote water conservation in rural America, we need the assistance of organizations like the U.S. Water Partnership and others to help improve conservation efforts around the globe. By applying the best of American expertise through the use of science and technology, we can conserve water resources and improve the resilience of farmers worldwide.