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Ignorance No Longer an Excuse

February 10, 2014 - Hampered these five years by a do-nothing Congress, Pres. Obama is finally making slow inroads in combatting climate change.  One measure designed to help farmers and ranchers was announced just last week.  To begin immediately, the administration is setting up 10 climate centers and sub-centers across the country that will act as clearinghouses of agricultural information, intended to help farmers and livestock producers better deal with climatic extremes like those of the last few decades.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement, in which he referred to the extended fire seasons, invasive pests (see my article in Transition Voice about the mountain pine bark beetle),  flooding, and drought as ongoing emergencies farmers must attempt to either mitigate or adapt to.  The growing season in the Midwest is now two weeks longer than sixty years ago, and the fire season is a full two months longer than it was in 1980.  Vilsack also made mention of the winter storm that struck South Dakota in October 2013, killing thousands of cattle.

The centers, also called climate hubs, will be located in Ames, IA, Corvaliss, OR, Durham, NH, El Reno, OK, Fort Collins, CO, Las Cruces, NM, Raleigh NC, Davis, CA, Houghton, MI, and Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.  These sites were selected as part of a competition organized by the USDA.  One aspect of the hubs' newly assigned task will be connecting farmers with universities, industry groups, state governments, and federal agencies.  The two primary agencies will be the Interior Dept. and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  The work performed by the hubs falls outside climate research paid for with $120 million allocated in the new farm bill.

The need for ready access to up-to-date agricultural information has become greater with each passing year.  Shockingly, droughts in various areas of the United States between the years 2011 - 2013 cost $50 billion.  Because of the increased urgency, Pres.Obama has decided to go-it alone and replace legislative action with executive action.  These centers are an example of executive action, which will continue throughout 2014 as one of the president's top priorities.

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