Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Monday 11/19/12

Not the Right Climate to Change

The House and Senate versions of the farm bill help address climate change by giving USDA flexibility to do its job in that regard, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said last week in an interview.

The agriculture secretary was nuanced in his comments on climate change, much like President Barack Obama later that same day when asked about climate change at a White House press conference.

USDA has recently put more emphasis on climate change by creating agro-ecology centers through the Agricultural Research Service and stressing better soil-health practices through the Natural Resources Conservation Service. There are also several other research efforts at land-grant universities funded by USDA grants.

Farmers, however, remain an incredibly skeptical audience despite the science on global warming. A Zogby poll conducted by The Progressive Farmer found 53% of farmers don't believe global warming is affecting their farm while 23% do believe they are being affected. A full 24% are simply not sure. Farmers are also even more skeptical that humans are affecting global warming.

Vilsack said the farm bill in the House and the one approved by the Senate continue a commitment to research. The Senate bill also continues to place an importance on bio-based products as an economic driver. Both bills continue a commitment to conservation -- despite a $6 billion reduction in the growth of conservation spending over the next decade.

"I think with innovation, creativity and good management that we at USDA can use the tools Congress provides us to improve soil health, improve water quality and help mitigate the consequences or at least allow us to be more adaptable to the consequences of more extreme weather conditions," Vilsack said.

Vilsack said he thinks people are certainly aware of the impact of the drought. They also understand better technologies have helped them weather some of these extreme weather events in better shape than they would have 20 years ago. Droughts and floods also underscore the importance of the farmer safety net.

"I think people have to recognize we've had a couple of years here where we have faced some fairly significant, more extreme weather situations. A typical tornado is no longer the exception, it's the norm," Vilsack aid. "These stronger, more severe storms are hitting us with greater frequency and we have got to make sure we have in place the research and the technologies that will allow us to respond and adapt to these storms and still have crop production at the levels we need. And, we need mechanisms to make sure that producers who really get hit hard are able to survive financially."

At his press conference last week, President Obama was asked what specifically he planned to do in his second term to deal with climate change. Further, Obama was asked if there was political will to do something. Obama replied he is a firm believer that climate change is real and that there is an obligation to future generations to do something. However, the president does not know what that exactly would be.

"So what I'm going to be doing over the next several weeks, next several months, is having a conversation, a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers, and elected officials to find out what can -- what more can we do to make a short-term progress in reducing carbons, and then working through an education process that I think is necessary -- a discussion, a conversation across the country about what realistically can we do long term to make sure that this is not something we're passing on to future generations that's going to be very expensive and very painful to deal with," Obama said.

Obama said it's not just a partisan issue, but a regional one as well. Moreover, the American public is far more focused on the economy so addressing climate change needs to be done in that context.

"I think that's something that the American people would support."

I can be found on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN.

Posted at 9:20AM CST 11/19/12 by Chris Clayton
Comments (2)
But then the 5% caused by landscaping practices are not an issue because that would not be politicly correct.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 7:00PM CST 11/19/12
Huge midwest drought, hurricane Sandy, sharp melts in Greenland, polar oceans navigable, huge increase in CO2 in the atmosphere,,,, NAH I don't see a correlation either! Crack open that gas cap and pour me another 50 gal please!
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 7:08AM CST 11/22/12
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