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USDA to integrate climate adaptation into its missions & programs

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its climate adaptation and resilience plan describing how the agency will prepare for current and future impacts of climate change.

“Integrating climate change into USDA’s planning and decision making is critical to ensuring that America’s producers, who are on the front lines of climate change, are positioned to be successful in the long term,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “This Adaptation Plan lays out the framework for USDA to carry out sustained climate adaptation that addresses current and emerging climate risks and challenges.”

The plan is part of the USDA’s response to Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, which tasked all federal agencies with preparing action plans for integrating climate adaptation into their missions, programs, operations, and management. 

The Adaptation Plan is aligned with a renewed and broad effort across USDA to prioritize climate action and increase resilience to climate impacts among American producers, landowners, and communities. The plan builds on the USDA’s earlier Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Strategy: 90-Day Progress Report, which focused on opportunities in the agriculture and forestry sectors for climate change mitigation and carbon sequestration.

The plan follows the announcement on September 29 of a new initiative to finance the deployment of climate-smart farming and forestry practices to aid in the marketing of climate-smart agricultural commodities. Guided by science, the USDA will support a set of pilot projects that provide incentives to implement climate smart conservation practices on working lands and to quantify and monitor the carbon and greenhouse gas benefits associated with those practices.

The Adaptation Plan identifies key climate threats to agriculture and forestry and outlines five cross-cutting adaptation actions USDA can take:

  1. Build resilience across landscapes with investments in soil and forest health.
  2. Increase outreach and education to promote adoption and application of climate-smart adaptation strategies.
  3. Broaden access to and availability of climate data at regional and local scales for USDA Mission Areas, producers, land managers, and other stakeholders.
  4. Increase support for research and development of climate-smart practices and technologies to inform USDA and help producers and land managers adapt to a changing climate.
  5. Leverage the USDA Climate Hubs as a framework to support USDA Mission Areas in delivering adaptation science, technology, and tools.

The USDA Climate Hubs will continue to play an integral role in climate adaptation (see Adaptation in Action) through their regionally tailored outreach activities and work across USDA Mission Areas to connect climate adaptation science and practice. USDA agencies, staff offices, and Mission Areas are developing detailed strategies to integrate climate thinking throughout their activities, programs, and operations that will foster a culture of sustained climate risk management across USDA.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and Office of Management and Budget seek public input on the agency climate adaptation plans. Members of the public may submit comments via the docket convening this fall with national organizations who have expertise in climate adaptation and resilience or have expressed interest in the agency plans.

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