Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Category: Climate Change

U.S. Forest Service Helps Fund Harvard Forest Green Energy Project

Harvard Forest staff renovated a pole barn to house the boiler room and modern wood shop. The new boiler room (left side of the building) contains three wood gasification boilers, a 2,500-gallon thermal storage tank, a propane-fired backup boiler and associated pumps and system controls. The sloped roof on the left of the building provides a dry storage area for racks of firewood prior to loading in the boilers. (U.S. Forest Service/Rob Clark)

Harvard Forest staff renovated a pole barn to house the boiler room and modern wood shop. The new boiler room (left side of the building) contains three wood gasification boilers, a 2,500-gallon thermal storage tank, a propane-fired backup boiler and associated pumps and system controls. The sloped roof on the left of the building provides a dry storage area for racks of firewood prior to loading in the boilers. (U.S. Forest Service/Rob Clark)

I recently had the opportunity to speak at the dedication ceremony for the Harvard Forest Wood Energy Project, an exciting venture partially supported by the U.S. Forest Service Northeastern Area. This woody-biomass heating system will support 50,000 square feet of the central campus buildings and five dormitories, replacing fuel-oil with renewable firewood that comes from Harvard Forest, a 3,500-acre laboratory and classroom in Petersham, Mass., and owned by Harvard University.

A unique aspect of this project is that it is at the heart of a long-term forest carbon research project. Not only are carbon flows in the Harvard Forest where the wood for the new energy system will come from already being closely studied, but now every aspect of the new installation will be very closely monitored and studied as well. Read more »

USDA Northeastern Regional Climate Hub Gets Ready to Help Producers, Forest Managers, Deal with Challenges

Mt. Washington, in the White Mountains National Forest, NH. USDA photo by J. Knowlton.

Mt. Washington, in the White Mountains National Forest, NH. USDA photo by J. Knowlton.

If you work outside, you care about the weather. But if your business depends on the weather, you should care about the climate.

Those of us who have lived in the Northeast for years know that something is up with the weather.  It’s more changeable; too wet one month, too dry the next.  Spring is coming earlier but late frosts linger and fall seems to stretch on.  This year’s cold winter reminds us of what winters used to be like. Read more »

#MyFarmBill Responds to Devastating Drought

Last Friday, Secretary Vilsack joined President Obama in California to announce new resources to help farmers and ranchers cope with devastating losses due to one of the state’s worst droughts in over 100 years. This much-needed relief will provide up to $100 million in livestock disaster assistance and an additional $10 million for water conservation, and it would not be possible without the 2014 Agricultural Act.

Times like these underscore the importance of the Farm Bill to America’s farmers, providing them with the resources they need to keep American agriculture productive and profitable and giving them confidence to grow and invest even when disaster strikes. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: New Farm Bill is an Investment in Rural America

The 2014 Farm Bill, passed by Congress and signed last week by President Obama, strengthens the farm safety net and ensures vital nutrition assistance for hardworking children and families during tough times. It closes loopholes and achieves much-needed reform, saving billions of taxpayer dollars.

Those accomplishments are significant and should be commended, particularly at a time when bipartisan victories in Washington are so rare.

We have already started work on a plan to implement the new Farm Bill. However, many of its provisions are new and complex. As we have done every step of the way in helping to craft this legislation, we will work to keep Congress and our stakeholders informed as we identify and prioritize everything—new regulations, guidance and other activities—that will be required so that we can implement the legislation in an efficient, timely and responsible manner. Read more »

USDA Then and Now: Part II

This month, USDA is sharing the story of rural American creativity, innovation and constant adaptation to meet 21st century challenges in communities across the nation.

This blog is Part II of a photo series highlighting some of the ways USDA has worked alongside farmers, ranchers and rural communities to carry out our mission in the communities we serve nationwide. You can see Part I here.

Below are historic photos paired with their modern counterparts, illustrating creative and innovative ways that USDA programs and services have evolved to build a brighter future filled with opportunities for rural Americans.

Don’t forget, you can share your innovation stories, too, using the hashtag #AgInnovates!

Forest and Land Restoration
Restoration of our public and private lands benefits the environment, creates jobs in rural communities and helps USDA to address a variety of threats to the health of our forest ecosystems including climate change,  fire, pests, and others.

On average, the USDA Forest Service is projected to complete treatments such as watershed, forest and wildlife habitat restoration, and hazardous fuel reduction on over 3 million acres of state, private and Federal lands each year, while USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service helps producers plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns and improve soil, water, plan, animal, and air on public and private lands.


 

Food Safety
Food Safety has always been an crucial part of USDA’s mission, but in recent years, modern technology has made it easier than ever to help consumers get the answers they need to their important food safety questions and keep them safe from illness. Ask Karen, provides 24/7 virtual assistance on tips preventing foodborne illness, safe food handling and storage and is available via web or mobile app.

 

Rural Housing
Part of USDA’s mission is to work to continuously improve the quality of life in rural areas. Housing and Community Facilities Programs help rural communities and individuals by providing loans and grants for housing and community facilities such as cutting edge hospitals, health clinics, schools, fire houses, community centers and many other community based initiatives, expanding access to state-of-the-art facilities to rural Americans.


Southwestern Climate Hub Helps Producers Cope with an Uncertain and Changing Climate

The Thompson Ridge Fire in the Sante Fe National Forest approximately 10 miles north of Jemez, NM consumed over 29,903 acres. Photo by Valess Calera Trust Kristin Honig.

The Thompson Ridge Fire in the Sante Fe National Forest approximately 10 miles north of Jemez, NM consumed over 29,903 acres. Photo by Valess Calera Trust Kristin Honig.

Those of us living and working in the Southwestern U.S. have recently experienced a prolonged, extreme drought persisting over several years. We have witnessed large, destructive and catastrophic wildfires that have taken both lives and property, observed expansive areas of forest tree death as a result of massive insect outbreaks, and seen our water supplies in reservoirs and dams across the region decline to previously unseen levels. Yet, what can we realistically do in the face of these climatically driven changes that will likely continue and intensify into the future?

Changing climatic conditions in the southwest that impact temperatures, alter growing seasons, increase plant moisture stress, and trigger extreme events directly contribute to these recent regional catastrophes and water scarcities.  Recently, a highly respected, third generation public land cattle rancher in our region put it this way: “I believe that the climate is changing.  But I can’t accept it.  If I do I would just go out of business.  I have to cope and go on.”  So we are left to look around us and ask what information, tools, and technology can we reach for when it gets tough? Read more »