Editor's Note: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announces USDA's comprehensive plan to tackle issues related to the changing climate that are impacting agriculture and forestry sectors.
America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners understand the threats that a changing climate can have on their operations and on their bottom line. As the world warms, that warming triggers many other changes to the Earth’s climate, including an increase in extreme events. Over the last 50 years, much of the U.S. has seen increases in excessively high temperatures, heavy downpours, and in some regions, severe floods and droughts. These events can drastically impact the agriculture and forestry sectors.
Today, I announced USDA’s comprehensive plan to tackle these challenges by working with partners and producers on a voluntary basis to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance carbon sequestration in agriculture and forestry by over 120 million metric tons over the next 10 years. Our strategy lays the foundation for agriculture and forestry to be part of the climate change solution. The plan will encourage farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to set an example for the world by showing that climate-friendly conservation practices can benefit the environment, individual farms and forest operations, and the economy as a whole.
Our efforts at USDA are already underway—but the bulk of the work is ahead of us. Over the next few months, we’ll work across the Department to lay out a path for achieving our goals, focusing on how we can do a better job of quantifying the greenhouse gas benefits of conservation practices. We’ll use our Climate Hub network to get information on climate-friendly practices to the field. And we’ll build out plans to implement each of our 10 building blocks ranging from improving soil health and nutrient management, to enhancing stewardship of federal forests, to working with utilities to improve energy efficiency in rural America.
We can’t accomplish our goals without the support and participation of producers and land owners who are setting the bar in conservation leadership. Producers in this country have a track record of rising to challenges—and this challenge is no different.
I had the opportunity to speak with many farmers today, like Donn Branton. Donn and his son Chad farm about 1500 acres of grain crops and vegetables in Le Roy, New York. Since he started farming in 1979, Donn transitioned from full tillage to no-till, zone-till and strip-till. Donn views his farm as an experiment, and is constantly changing to improve his bottom line and the environment. With the uncertainty that climate change brings to American agriculture, we need farmers like Donn to amplify the message that practices like conservation tillage can both protect crops against the impacts of droughts and floods while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving yields.
The agriculture and forestry communities aren’t alone in addressing this challenge. Our partners are stepping up to the challenge. Over 10 organizations announced actions today to work with farm and forest land owners to expand carbon sequestration and renewable energy and to reduce greenhouse gases. I am certain that with continued broad support, the agriculture and forestry sectors will be leaders in the fight against climate change.
Over the next decade, Americans in all walks of life will face the growing challenges of a changing climate. It’s our job to get in front of these challenges by showing that we can adapt, innovate, and be part of the solution. Today, USDA is taking a major step by setting the stage to address climate change, strengthen the resilience of our farms and forests, and ensure that rural America can demonstrate leadership in addressing climate change. Thanks for being part of it.