Agriculture USDA Climate Hubs

Published on February 6th, 2014 | by Tina Casey


Cue The Outrage! Obama Administration Foists Climate Agenda On US Farmers

February 6th, 2014 by  

Funny, we thought news of President Obama’s new “Climate Hubs” initiative for the agriculture industry would bring out a chorus of climate change deniers, but it’s been almost a full day since they were announced and we’re not hearing much — yet. While we’re waiting, let’s take a closer look these new Regional Hubs for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change, as they are formally called.

There are seven Climate Hubs, spearheaded by the US Department of Agriculture. Here’s the mission in a nutshell:

Climate Hubs will address increasing risks such as fires, invasive pests, devastating floods, and crippling droughts on a regional basis, aiming to translate science and research into information to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners on ways to adapt and adjust their resource management.

USDA Climate Hubs

Climate Hubs courtesy of USDA.

Word about the Climate Hubs actually leaked out last summer in a June 5 speech to the National Press Club, when USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced his intention to link the agency’s long running research partners and form new partnerships to develop stronger information resources aimed at forecasting, adaptation, and risk mitigation.

Aside from the obvious academic partners and non-governmental organizations, the list includes the Department of Interior, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Native Nations and related organizations, state departments of environment and agriculture, and farmer organizations and related trade groups.

We’re going to take an educated guess at a couple of other federal agencies that could play a role. The Department of Defense is one that comes to mind. As a whole, DoD has been in the vanguard of climate change planning, and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has played point with forceful defenses of climate science.

The Navy has also aggressively pursued biofuel initiatives including a major partnership with USDA, aimed at kickstarting the market for biofuel crops.

The Environmental Protection Agency would also factor into the Climate Hubs initiative, given its landmark agricultural biogas initiative in partnership with USDA.

And of course, the Department of Energy could come into play, given its role in funding for biofuel initiatives.

Climate Hubs And Sub-Hubs

You can get a complete list of the Climate Hubs from the USDA, but here’s a sketch. Aside from the seven main hubs, there are three Subsidiary Hubs (Sub Hubs) set up to address issues unique to three regions: the Southwest (specialty crops and Southwest forests), Southeast (issues unique to the Caribbean), and Midwest (Lake State forest).

The new Climate Hubs initiative follows on the heels of at least two other major climate-adaptive services that USDA has developed for the agriculture industry.

One is the adoption of new science based guidelines for cover crop management, aimed at preventing erosion, improving soil including nutrition and water content, suppressing weeds, and breaking pest cycles.

Another is the release of a carbon management tool called COMET-FARM, aimed at  helping producers calculate carbon removal by the soil and vegetation on their land.

As for the outrage, we can think of about 31 members of the House of Representatives who should be turning purple right about now, based on a hearing conducted back in 2011 by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in which all 31 Republican members of the committee pondered the merits of climate science, and denied it.

In an attempt to get that sentiment on the legislative record, last January Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) offered up an amendment to an energy bill stating the reality of climate change, which garnered 24 “no” votes from Republicans on that same committee.

If we run across a response to the new Climate Hubs initiative from any of those 24, we’ll keep you posted.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Luciano

    There is nothing that this administration that they will refuse to meddle in other ways they will loose sleep because they’re so self rightious and perfect that they will run other just like robots. So please go out of your ivory tower and make an extended examination of conscience and get right with God! Don’t forget penance, penance and penance!

  • Doug Cutler

    Some people are very inconsistent when it comes to trusting the trained experts: if they need their car fixed they go to a licensed mechanic; if the have a toothache they go to the dentist; if they have a strange tumor on their neck they go to an oncologist. But if they have rising sea levels, melting glaciers and frankenweather do they go to the 97% + consensus of peer reviewed climate scientists? Hell no, they go to Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck or some piece of half-baked pseudo-science. Sorry, the world is not full of people smarter than a thousand climate scientists.

    Fortunately, the debate is shifting, the climate change discussion slowly becoming irrelevant. The global warming deniers can still slow things down by voting for fossil fuel based politicians but increasingly the question is not IF the Clean Tech revolution wins out but just how long will it take. Yes, fossil fuels are still in the lead but Clean Tech is gaining fast and hasn’t even hit its stride yet.

  • Rick Kargaard

    The fact that there is still debate on this site on the subject of climate change indicates that we are still far from a concensus. I have never seen any scientific paper that states any future scenario WILL happen. All predictions are couched in terms like MAY or COULD happen. That is true science.Theory is only theory and a basis for further study and experiment.
    We do have some evidence the planet is warming, but the evidence is only relevant to a rather short time period. We do not know if reducing CO2 emissions will reverse warming or even slow it. It just seems like a reasonable guess.
    The other point is whether we are willing to take the chance that the worst scenarios will not happen.
    It is not difficult to see that human activity is having a profound effect on the planet.
    I doubt if global warming is even the worst one

    • Bob_Wallace

      There is still debate over whether the Earth is flat. There will always be a few knuckleheads who take a contrarian view regardless of how strong the evidence. There are a lot of people who claim that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

      Scientists try to avoid “always” and “never”. They rarely talk in terms of 100% or 0% probabilities. There’s almost always room left for new data. When you see scientists talk about “almost certain” what you are hearing is “There is no damn way this won’t happen short of the emergence of some new, never observed physical force”.

      Your use of “theory” is not how scientists use the word. In general science has dropped the word theory because it is used in such a different way in the non-scientist community. Models are the new theory.
      We have evidence that human caused warming started a couple thousand years ago or more with the beginning of rice farming. Lots of methane released.

      While the Industrial Revolution and our heavy use of fossil fuels is only short term (less than 200 years) what we’ve measured is an extremely rapid rise in global temperature unlike anything observed in the geological record.

      We know how CO2 allows some wave lengths to pass through but blocks others. We’ve know that for over 100 years. There is no dispute as to how CO2 works as a selective filter.

      We know how much CO2 has increased in the atmosphere. We’ve been measuring the amount for over 50 years.

      We know where the extra CO2 comes from. It’s clearly a CO2 isotope from fossil fuels.

      This is known stuff. It’s been measured over and over and over.

      You should do a little reading and find out what life on planet Earth would be like were we to keep on heating things up. We’d wish we could go back to the good old days when city air was not breathable and our rivers caught on fire.

      • Rick Kargaard

        I have never argued that CO2 has not increased dramaticaly in the past 200 years. Nor do I doubt global warming. I am just not certain of the final effect. All the fossil fuels we burn today comes from deposits laid down eons ago through lifes interaction with the atmosphere. That also includes the carbon in almost all limestone. Any conclusions drawn from any of this should be open to reasonable debate and not treated like a religion. There is always the possibility that you are wrong

        • Bob_Wallace

          There is always a possibility that climate science is wrong. That is why climate scientists avoid “always” and “never” type statements.

          But at some point the science comes together adequately to make climate scientists say “almost certain”. At that point we have the experts telling us that human caused climate change is very, very, very, likely to be happening.

          And we’ve got modeling that shows us what the risks are.

          Increasing the overall planetary temperature means that many of our food crops will not grow where our most productive crop land is located. Take a trip into Canada and contemplate growing the grain crops we want in the rocky mountains of western Canada and the thin, swampy soil of the east.
          Also we know that we’re on route to melt out glaciers and the polar ice caps. We’ll soon have turned Glacier National Park into Glacerless National Park. We’re likely short years away from the first summer meltout of Arctic sea ice since humans have been on the planet. Melt that out and the melting of Greenland accelerates

          Keep increasing the melt and we return to the days when oceans covered most of Florida. Our current coastal areas. The massive California valleys. We then crowd ourselves into smaller and smaller area making it even harder to feed ourselves.

          We can have a reasonable debate about climate change.

          If the non-science side brings some real data. Show how the planet is not really warming.

          Or show what is driving the increase. “Natural variation” is not an answer. When the climate has changed before there has been a physical reason. To claim it natural variation without identifying the physical reason is calling on magic as the explanation.

        • shecky vegas

          Rick – My two cents here. I don’t think anyone denies the increase in warming and there’s plenty of evidence that the planet has, in fact, been hotter than now, at least twice in its history.
          For me, what changes the debate is consideration of the time frame it took for the last two warming trends to ramp up. Each one took 12-15,000 years to mature, before cooling off. What we’re experience now has occurred in just the last 150 years.
          The only variable I can see that could cause such a massive impact/reduction on the time frame is the population growth of the human race and its industry. Not that we meant this to happen, but, well, there you have it.

          • Rick Kargaard

            Hey guys. Read my comments again. I do believe we are seeing global warming, and I am 100% sure that human activity is the main culprit. I just don’t believe in throwing out the baby with the bathwater. There are some so called answers that could cause more damage and social upheaval than climate change itself. What do you do with the people who rely on fossil fuels for their livlihood. And as to taking a trip to Canada, I live there most of the time.

          • Bob_Wallace

            People lost their jobs when we moved from horses to cars.

            People lost their jobs when we moved from typewriters to computers.

            And new jobs were created.

            We can’t afford to wreck the planet in order to keep coal miners digging.
            It’s not just Canada. Upper Europe is not going to replace the fertile fields we’ll lose.

            Africa and South America taper as we move away from the equator.

          • Rick Kargaard

            What you say is partly true but no laws were passed to force people to switch to cars and and there were few incentives beyond the economic ones. I believe most countries and industry are doing what they can. Panic will only cause irreparable errors. There is usually a germ of truth in what everyone says. At least listen.

          • Bob_Wallace

            People moved to cars mostly for convenience. Have you ever harnessed a team in bad weather? Ever gone to the barn twice a day to feed and water? Ever had a horse kick over the traces while they were pulling the wagon? Ever gone any distance at “horse speed”?

            We should listen to people who claim that CO2 is not causing climate change? That the planet hasn’t heated since 1998?

            I’m sorry. Some people do not deserve a listen.

            No country is doing all it can. Europe and the US have passed peak CO2 but levels are not falling quickly enough. China is installing large amounts of wind and solar but they haven’t reached peak CO2.

            Even countries which get 100% of their electricity from renewables have yet to move their transportation to renewables. Everyone needs to be working much harder. And many people alive today are likely to suffer because people are working too slow. Even us old farts.

  • Steeple

    Friendly reminder to logical thinkers:

    1) Climate Change does not imply that man-made effects are a primary driver. That is still the subject of debate no matter how many times someone tosses around the term denier.

    2) US Farmers have not been known to protest much in the way of AG Dept Spending, so that really doesn’t imply much. You would think its the 1920’s the way we subsidize agriculture in this country. Perhaps we could focus on eliminating the ethanol program, which has led to the major over fertilization of corn crops that has been a major contributor to the dead zone at the mouth of the Mississippi.

    • sault

      “Climate Change does not imply that man-made effects are a primary driver. That is still the subject of debate no matter how many times someone tosses around the term denier.”
      Nope, you’re WRONG:
      “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change fourth assessment report, published in 2007 came to a more confident assessment of the causes of global temperature change than previous reports and concluded that ‘it is likely that there has been significant anthropogenic warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent except Antarctica.’ Since then, warming over Antarctica has also been attributed to human influence, and further evidence has accumulated attributing a much wider range of climate changes to human activities. Such changes are broadly consistent with theoretical understanding, and climate model simulations, of how the planet is expected to respond. This paper reviews this evidence from a regional perspective to reflect a growing interest in understanding the regional effects of climate change, which can differ markedly across the globe. We set out the methodological basis for detection and attribution and discuss the spatial scales on which it is possible to make robust attribution statements. We review the evidence showing significant human-induced changes in regional temperatures, and for the effects of external forcings on changes in the hydrological cycle, the cryosphere, circulation changes, oceanic changes, and changes in extremes.”;jsessionid=AE693764D8E5056BB1F31F908F32D4FB.f03t03?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false

      Sorry, but facts once again disprove the illogical climate denier position. How does it feel to be so wrong?

      • Steeple

        You would lose a lot of money betting on IPCC’s track record.

        • just_jim

          IPCC has underestimated some effects of global warming, so you are partially correct.

    • just_jim

      Climate change does not imply that man made effects are a primary driver. What implies that man made effects are a primary driver are the scientific studies that conclude that human contributions to global warming range from about 90% to over 150%.

      The debate among scientists is where on that range human contributions actually fall. Of course among the fake skeptics anything that suggest that we should reduce our carbon footprint is the subject of debate.

    • Bob_Wallace

      A very small number of people do not understand the science.

      It’s time to leave them behind.

  • John Young

    Farmers know all too well about climate change as they have to plan ahead for what crops that can — and can no longer — grow as crop zones move northward. As for the cause, they’re working all day, not sitting in front of the TV watching Fox news funnel the fossil fuel industry’s propaganda into the minds of those willing to ignore reality because it doesn’t mesh with a political ideology. Farmers live in a very real world where global crude prices, interest rates and commodity futures all hit them on the balance sheet.

  • GeraldWilhite

    “… USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced his intention to link the agency’s long running research partners and form new partnerships … Another [aim] is the release of a carbon management tool called COMET-FARM, aimed at helping producers calculate carbon removal by the soil and vegetation on their land.”

    Looks like bureaucrats getting together to try to generate new carbon taxes on farmers and ranchers. They’re spending tax dollars to solve a problem that isn’t real.

    Haven’t they heard? We now know that CO2 is definitely NOT the climate control knob. .

    • sault

      “Looks like bureaucrats getting together to try to generate new carbon taxes on farmers and ranchers.”
      Actually…that’s a big NO. How in the world does “new partnerships” and “carbon management tools” become carbon taxes?
      And how in the world do you not understand that CO2 traps heat? This is basic physics, bro. How in the world do you not understand that human activity has raised CO2 concentrations by 40% with no signs of slowing down? How in the world can you deny climate change when the science is clear (more than 99% of scientific papers published in the last 20 years agree that human activity is changing the climate), the consensus is clear (98% of climate scientists agree and EVER SINGLE scientific organization on the planet does too) and basic physics tells us that we CANNOT dump billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year and expect nothing bad to happen???
      Get a clue before you mindlessly regurgitate any more fossil fuel company talking points…

    • just_jim

      Speak for yourself.

      Most of us prefer not to know things that aren’t true.

      • Kiwiiano

        Actually it’s far more common for folk to NOT want to know things that ARE true, especially if there is even a faint suggestion they might have to change their lifestyle in some way.

  • There is no outrage from the deniers because they fully agree with Obama on this one. Climate change is just some unspecified ‘natural cycle’ (aka ‘god’) that we are totally unable to stop and thus, obviously, the only option that remains is trying to adapt.

    So we adapt and adapt some more and even more because we are so stupid not to first stop the problem from getting worse.

    Mopping up water with the tap still running. In the wonderful world of agw deniers, that is ‘smart’.

    So now we officially have a bunch water mopping centers. Great.

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