Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack: Climate change will soon affect agriculture

Have you ever wondered whether Virginia will become the new North Carolina?

Here is a portion of an article that communicates Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack’s message regarding climate change and the need for farmers to take note and get ready.

Washington D.C. — U.S. farmers and ranchers must adapt or risk getting left behind as climate change becomes an increasingly influential part of the agricultural landscape, the head of the U.S. Agriculture Department said Wednesday.

During a speech in Washington, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said better technological advancements through products such as seed so far have been enough to maintain production levels despite more intense storms, forest fires and an increase in invasive species.

But Vilsack, who served two terms as Iowa’s governor, called the threat of a changing climate “much different than anything we’ve ever tackled” and warned that without more drastic changes the accelerating pace and intensity of global warming during the next few decades may soon begin to significantly affect agriculture.

“If we do not adapt and mitigate climate impacts, it could have an impact on yields, it could have an impact on where we grow, what we grow in the future,” Vilsack told reporters after a speech on the effects of climate change on agriculture. “This is not something that is a next week issue or a next year issue, but this is something that over the next several decades we’re going to continue to confront.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said 2012 was the hottest year ever in the United States since record-keeping began in 1895, surpassing the previous high by a full degree Fahrenheit.

The country was battered by the worst drought to hit the United States in more than 50 years, leaving some crops to wither away in bone-dry fields across the Midwest. Plentiful spring rains have nearly eradicated drought across Iowa. Currently, 2 percent of the state is mired in a drought, compared to all of Iowa at the start of 2013.

Vilsack noted the impact climate change has had on various regions of the country. In the Midwest and Great Plains, the growing season has been extended by nearly two weeks during his lifetime.

As temperatures climb, he said, future crop production will change, depending on water availability and other factors. In areas where water-intensive fruit and vegetables are grown, drought-resistant row crops may one day be planted.

“I am not here today to give a scientific lecture on climate change,” Vilsack said during his speech. “I’m here to tell you what we’re seeing on the ground.”

Vilsack announced a series of initiatives the USDA is implementing to help producers, including the creation of so-called “Regional Climate Hubs” to work with producers and foresters in different parts of the country on ways to reduce the impact of climate change on their operations. USDA also has a database to help farmers see how conservation practices would change their greenhouse emissions and boost the capture of carbon from the atmosphere.

Originally published by the Desmoine Register.|head


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