USDA chief: Climate change already hurting farmers

Climate change is already hurting American farmers and rural residents, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday, warning that the U.S. would regret any failure to adapt and prepare for shifting weather realities.
AP Wire
Feb 8, 2014


Unveiling a new effort to coordinate the government's response, Vilsack said extreme weather events have already taken the U.S. by surprise, putting ranchers and others out of business. He pointed to the intensity and frequency of recent storms, long droughts, snowstorms and subzero weather as evidence that climate change is no longer hypothetical or in the future.

"The combination of all those factors convinces me that the climate is changing, and it's going to have its impact, and will have its impact, and is having its impact on agriculture and forestry," Vilsack said.

Pine bark beetle that in years past were killed off during harsh winters have now infected about 45 million trees in western states, leading to more severe forest fires, posing flood risks and threatening the timber industry, Vilsack said. In the absence of adequate forecasting and disaster assistance, he said, an October snowstorm wiped out entire cattle operations in the Dakotas.

"When that snowstorm hit, it didn't wipe out just a few animals. It wiped out the entire operation," Vilsack said. "Nobody anticipated and expected that severe a storm, that early."

To that end, the Obama administration said seven new "climate hubs" will open in regions across the U.S., acting as clearinghouses for data and research about effects of climate change. Based out of existing Agriculture Department facilities, the hubs will assess local climate risks, such as drought and wildfire, then develop plans for dealing with them, such as improved irrigation techniques.

The goal is to synchronize the federal government's preparation and resources with what other entities, such as universities, tribal communities and state governments, are doing to prepare for shifting temperatures.

"It's taking existing avenues, research service or forest service, and charging them with a new responsibility to basically take a look at precisely what risks are currently being recognized and what's the vulnerability to agriculture and to forestry in each region of the country," Vilsack said.

Vilsack disclosed the locations for the new hubs, which were announced last year and included in Obama's broader climate change plan. The seven regional hubs will be housed in forest service stations or government research labs in Ames, Iowa; Durham, N.H.; Raleigh, N.C.; Fort Collins, Colo.; El Reno, Okla.; Corvallis, Ore.; and Las Cruces, N.M. Three smaller "sub-hubs" will be created in Houghton, Mich.; Davis, Calif.; and Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.



Former Grandhavenite

Initiate climate change debate sequence. Rant incoming in 3...2...1...

I've got to hand it to the Trib. They sure know how to pick a story that'll increase their number of page views.


No rant - just a look at the Secretary of Agriculture's bones on Climate Science and Agriculture:

Vilsack attended Shady Side Academy, a preparatory high school in Pittsburgh. He received a bachelor's degree in 1972 from Hamilton College in New York. While at Hamilton he joined the Delta Upsilon Fraternity. He received a Juris Doctor (J.D.) in 1975 from Albany Law School. He and his wife settled in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, in 1975.

Nuff said


"..[involved] in the Pigford scandal"??

Tri-cities realist

I'm sure the AGW believers will rant about Vilsack's comments linking recent weather as evidence of global warming. Commencing countdown, engines on...


Vroom, Vroom....Uhh, since climate change reflects an accumulation of weather events over a long period of time, weather is a critical factor in determining global warming. All interrelated.

Tri-cities realist

My last sentence was a reference to a David Bowie song, a tribute to Wingmaster, since I haven't seen him around lately.

Comments about a previous article stated that recent weather events can't be used to refute global warming, or climate change. I didn't see you correct them on that, so which is it?

Mystic Michael

What the hell does Tom Vilsack's personal or professional background have to do with the real-time experience of global warming? The Arctic polar ice cap is in fact melting away. Polar bears - drowning for lack of living habitat (ice), and starving for lack of hunting habitat - are now in danger of extinction as a result. They're raiding the nests of ground-dwelling Arctic birds - thereby threatening those species with extinction as well. And thus the unforeseen ecological chain reactions go...

With less ice & snow covering the polar regions, more & more of the sun's energy is being absorbed by the Earth - not radiated back into space, as is usual. Thereby accelerating the warming effect - to a possible tipping point of no return. These are not speculations. They are not matters of personal opinion. They are not subjective in nature. These are actual, measurable, verifiable, scientific facts.

Reality. It's a bitch.

Our current crop of global warming deniers are the intellectual descendants of the flat earth advocates of the 17th Century - those who bitterly persecuted Galileo for daring to claim that the Earth is spherical. (Even the Catholic Church finally got around to apologizing to him for all that "heresy" jive - only 350 years after Galileo's death. Today's wingnuts don't have the luxury of nearly that much time.)

Tri-cities realist

Well since Vilsack was educated as an attorney, and not a scientist, what he believes about global warming shouldn't really matter. At least that's what the believers say about some of the deniers.

Regarding global temperature changes, it is very difficult to determine if or how much the planet has warmed. Since the locations of measurement have increased in numbers over the years, coupled with the fact that many of the temperature sensors are in areas that have seen human population and industry increases, of course the readings will indicate a locally higher temperature. It's the same reason you don't install a fire alarm over your stove or oven.

But even if there has been a slight increase in temperatures over the last hundred years, there is the question of what caused it. So if humans are causing global warming, how do you explain the fact that temperatures haven't increased in the last 15+ years? Perhaps it isn't humans causing it, perhaps it is a nearby star that we hope rises and sets every day.


If the climate hands you lemons, make lemonade.
I’ll not argue the climate changes it does and has before we were here. It warms and cools and has for centuries according to Ice cores all without SUV’s or coal plants
This is where I part ways with those so arrogant to place themselves like God to suggest that man controls or influences the climate or weather which is God’s place and privilege.
1st commandment “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”
If you are feeling guilty about your existance causing harm to the earth then give all you have to the poor and live with the beasts in the forest…

Tri-cities realist

Good advice, hopefully some will follow it.


Global Warming...uh...Climate Change, yea climate change..that sounds better, where to begin...koolaid, sell you a bridge etc..oh no, the ice cap is melting,the ground birds..nooo not the ground birds and the polar bears are drowning...hahaha..what a maroon, sucker !


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