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Posts tagged: Climate Change

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 »

“Voices from the Land” Conservation in American Agriculture Briefing Highlights Environmental Award Winners

USDA Deputy Undersecretary Ann Mills (ninth from left) visits with Leopold Conservation Award winners at USDA last week. USDA photo.

USDA Deputy Undersecretary Ann Mills (ninth from left) visits with Leopold Conservation Award winners at USDA last week. USDA photo.

“Water conservation begins where the first drop of rain falls…most likely on private working lands.” This is a favorite saying of Tom Vandivier, a Texas cattle rancher and 2008 recipient of the Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award (LCA).

Tom was one of more than two dozen recipients of the LCA – which recognized landowners for achievement in environmental improvement on agricultural land – in Washington, D.C. last week.  I was fortunate to meet with them here at USDA headquarters to talk about the importance of conservation and the need to spread the message that investing in conservation practices on our farm and ranch lands not only protects water, air and wildlife – it also makes economic sense. Read more »

Southern Plains Climate Hub Seeks to Address Three Huge Problems

Corn shows the affect of drought in Texas on Aug. 20, 2013. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

Corn shows the affect of drought in Texas on Aug. 20, 2013. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

I am a research scientist, by nature, training, and now more than 30 years of experience.  I hold degrees in Physics, Atmospheric Sciences, Meteorology, and have done research in many sub-specialties of the last two, including climate science.  My curiosity about the natural world never slows down, and I am not intimidated by difficult problems.  But the research I’ve been doing since 1999 has been the most challenging:  how do we transform what we know about weather, weather variability, climate, and climate change into practical advice for farmers and ranchers?  This is not just one problem in my mind, but three.  Three huge gnarly problems, each close to intractable.  But these new USDA Climate Hubs are an opportunity to make progress on all three.  What follows are thumbnails of the three problems I have in mind, and then briefly how I see the Climate Hubs providing a handle on them. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Innovation for a Stronger Rural America

Innovation is at the heart of the American agriculture success story. As a matter of course, today’s farmers and ranchers must constantly prepare and adapt to get ahead of tomorrow’s challenges.

At USDA, we have a long history of fostering research and innovation that help agricultural production thrive. I am pleased that the 2014 Farm Bill, signed into law today by President Obama, includes new support for agricultural research and, through a new research foundation, recommits to innovation for years to come. Read more »

Northern Plains Climate Hub Aims to Help Producers “No Matter What the Weather May Bring”

Flooding  and water damage in the Park and Tongue River Watersheds located in Cavalier, Pembina and Cavalaier Counties in North Dakota on Thursday, May 23, 2013. USDA photo by Keith Weston.

Flooding and water damage in the Park and Tongue River Watersheds located in Cavalier, Pembina and Cavalaier Counties in North Dakota on Thursday, May 23, 2013. USDA photo by Keith Weston.

Weather dominates the conversation at local coffee shops and community gathering locations across the Northern Plains.  Depending on the time of the year, I’ve heard things like this:

“We sure could use rain – really dry out there. Cattle are going to have to come off the pastures soon.”

Or…

“Hoping the rain will break here for a few days so I can get the hay cut without it getting rained on this time.” Read more »