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New Partnerships Between USDA Climate Hubs and Cooperative Extension to Boost Climate Research

February 28, 2022

Photo Credit: USDA

Last month, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced new partnerships between USDA Climate Hubs and the Cooperative Extension Service to increase the impact of climate research by connecting directly to farmers and ranchers and others in the agricultural community. The new grant program facilitating these partnerships was launched with a $9 million investment into projects that will work toward net-zero emissions in agriculture, working lands, and helping communities adapt to climate change.

This new investment, as part of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), is a new program area that would provide translatable approaches to address climate change. Research from USDA Climate Hubs will be disseminated through outreach from organizations such as the Cooperative Extension Service. The partnership between the Cooperative Extension Service and research at the Climate Hubs can serve to accelerate the development, adoption, and application of science-based, climate-friendly practices that will serve farming communities, especially Tribal and other underserved communities, educators, and other agriculture professionals.

Led by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Forest Service (FS), Climate Hubs collaborate across USDA agencies to provide region-specific information and tools to agricultural professionals to enable climate-informed decision-making, and to provide access to assistance to implement those decisions. By combining these efforts with the outreach of the Cooperative Extension Service, USDA hopes to directly connect and share climate solutions directly with the agricultural community.

Introduced as a new program in AFRI’s Foundation and Applied Science program RFA in 2021, the initiative will “support projects that provide effective, translatable, and scalable approaches” with regional partnerships with the USDA Climate Hubs and Cooperative extension. According to the RFA, projects should work towards one or more of the following long-term socioeconomic impacts: 1) net-zero emissions agriculture; 2) working lands adapted to climate change; 3) a diverse workforce that can effectively communicate about climate change with a variety of stakeholders and can incorporate climate considerations into managing working lands; and 4) climate justice including equity in opportunities and burden-sharing.

Six inaugural projects have been funded through new partnerships with the Climate Hubs, land-grant institutions, nonprofit organizations, and other regional and local stakeholders. Each award is $1.5 million.

  • Multifaceted Pathways to Climate-Smart Agriculture Through Integrated Participatory Program Development and Delivery – University of California (Davis)
    The project will develop multifaceted pathways with the California Climate Hub to climate-smart agriculture through stakeholder needs assessments, climate-friendly agriculture trainings for technical service providers, regional workshops for farmers and ranchers, and student education with extension service-learning opportunities. Participatory program development and delivery through an extensive network of stakeholders, collaborators and supporters are at the core of this integrated proposal.
  • Forest Owner Carbon and Climate Education Program (FOCCE)Pennsylvania State University
    Penn State will create an education program to help private forests adapt and mitigate climate change, prepare minority owners to take advantage of carbon market opportunities, and prepare the forestry extension workforce to better serve their clients in forest carbon and climate issues, in collaboration with the Northern Forests and Southeast Climate Hubs.
  • Assisting Farmers and Ranchers with Assessing and Mitigating Insurable Weather and Climate Risks in The Southwest and Northern Plains – Montana State University
    Collaborating with the Southwest and Northern Plains Climate Hub staff and regional education and extension stakeholders, including NSAC member NCAT, Montana State will develop improved educational materials, modes of communication, and issue expertise that will help in assisting farmers and ranchers to better assess the sources of past crop and livestock production losses due to weather and climate disruption, as well as explore future projections for these causes of loss.
  • Accelerating the Transition to Climate-Smart Strategies by Bolstering the Extension to Midwest Climate Hub Connection – Ohio State University
    This project partners with the Midwest Climate Hub and multiple universities to increase Midwest adoption of regionally scalable climate-friendly activities. The project will improve shared understanding of the needs of the Midwest’s diverse stakeholders, develop shared roadmaps for livestock and cropping systems, elevate perspectives and voices of historically underserved communities including black and indigenous communities, and strengthen climate science infrastructure through a re-imagined Extension-Midwest Climate Hub partnership.
  • Native Climate: Strengthening the Role of Climate Hubs in Indian CountryThe Desert Research Institute
    This project team will strengthen the role of USDA Climate Hubs in Indian country by enhancing Native agroecosystem resilience through the expansion of climate services and outreach in the Southwest and Northern Plains Climate Hub regions. Activities are designed to foster trust between Climate Hubs and Native farmers, ranchers, and resource managers through equitable and culturally appropriate information sharing, putting community at the center of solutions for climate change and food and nutrition security.
  • Enabling Climate-Smart Decisions for Agriculture and Forestry in the U.S. Caribbean – The USDA Caribbean Climate Hub
    USDA is partnering with minority-serving universities, including the University of Puerto Rico and the University of the Virgin Islands Extension, and non-profits to help historically underserved communities throughout the US Caribbean and other coastal areas adapt to a rapidly changing climate and extreme weather events. They will develop education and extension programs aimed at increasing climate literacy as well as helping land managers employ climate-friendly agriculture and forestry techniques. Educational materials will be created in Spanish and English.

To read all the abstracts, visit NIFA’s website.

With Climate Hubs possessing an exclusive focus on climate and agriculture, they are key sites for discovering new tools and practices that can aid farmers in becoming more adaptable and resilient to weather fluctuations, increasing pest pressures, and spurring future change to the agricultural system. However, to date, they do not have Congressional authorization or dedicated appropriated funding which can stymie their growth and outreach efforts. In addition to these partnerships, NSAC hopes to see Climate Hubs more involved in collaborative problem-solving among farmers, researchers, and extension education professionals, which will also require additional resources for the Climate Hubs.

NSAC will follow the success of these projects and will provide more information as the program continues to evolve. Anyone interested in learning about AFRI can visit NSAC’s Grassroots Guide for additional information.

Categories: Carousel, General Interest, Grants and Programs, Research, Education & Extension

One response to “New Partnerships Between USDA Climate Hubs and Cooperative Extension to Boost Climate Research”

  1. Judy Feldman says:

    Any ideas on when funding might be available to smaller training programs. We are also working on Climate Awareness and could certainly use some financial help.