How Food and Forestry Are Adapting to a Changing Climate
On the day he was inaugurated in 2009, President Obama called for “a new era of responsibility.” Shortly thereafter, he convened the world’s largest economies to confront the threat of climate change as a global force. From day one, the President and his Administration have transformed the United States economy into a global leader in renewable energy and an aggressive champion of greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions through practical, science-based solutions.
Central to the President’s Climate Action Plan is agriculture, forestry and land stewardship. To meet our national goal of reducing GHG emissions by 26–28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, the plan called for our nation’s food and forestry producers to embrace innovation and conservation like never before.
For over 150 years, American farmers, ranchers and forest landowners have adapted in the face of weather challenges. But climate change posed unknown threats. Last year marked the 19th consecutive year that our annual average temperature was above the 20th century average. One region of the United States now experiences historic droughts while another is hit by stronger and more frequent storms. Invasive species and pests lay siege to forests in the Mountain West while increasingly intense wildfires rip through landscapes from the Southwest to the Pacific Northwest up to Alaska.
In this new reality, farmers, ranchers and landowners began to search out tools, technologies and new partnerships to manage their investments against these risks. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture was there to offer cutting-edge research and data to guide them. Working with producers and landowners since 2009, USDA has:
1.Enrolled record acres in conservation programs through a new model of stewardship that brings together local, national, public and private partners
2.Set the nation’s first measurable benchmarks in food and forestry to reduce net emissions and enhance CO2 sequestration by 120 million MT per year
3.Implemented the nation’s first comprehensive planning rule in a generation to ensure the health and sustainabilty of our national forests and grasslands
4.Set the first-ever national food waste reduction goal of 50 percent by 2030
5.Established seven regional Climate Hubs and three sub-hubs to give producers and landowners data and guidance for decision-making
6.Invested unprecedented resources in climate research and developed science-based tools to help landowners evaluate management options
7.Helped rural businesses save enough energy to power 959,000 homes annually
8.Cofounded an alliance of 120 nations and partners to enhance agricultural productivity and incomes and reduce GHG emissions and increase CO2 sequestration
The evolution happening today in U.S. food and forestry to mitigate and adapt to climate impacts is historic. And it all began with a commitment to renewable energy.