On Wednesday, October 22, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched a new website dedicated to its regional climate change “hubs,” which the Department created in 2013. USDA maintains seven hubs–Pacific Northwest, Southwest, Northern Plains, Southern Plains, Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast–and three sub-hubs–Caribbean, Northern Forests, and California. USDA created the three sub-hubs where “special aspects of biogeography, production systems, sector needs, or demographics suggested the need for focused work at a sub-regional scale.”
According to USDA, “the hubs are intended to help maintain and strengthen agricultural production, natural resource management, and rural economic development under increasing climate variability by providing guidance on technologies and risk management practices at regional and local scales.”
More specifically, the hubs will:
- Provide periodic regional assessments of risk and vulnerability in the agriculture and forestry sectors to help land managers better understand the potential direct and indirect impacts of a changing climate;
Provide outreach, education and extension to farmers, ranchers, forest landowners, rural communities, and underserved and vulnerable communities, tribes, and individuals on climate change risk management through land grant universities, Cooperative Extension, USDA service agencies, and public/private partnerships;
Support applied research and development and innovation partnerships for risk management and climate change response; and
Work closely with extension organizations and be a source of user-friendly information developed from research from a wide variety of sources.
Little work has been conducted thus far through the climate hubs; however, the new webpages for each hub and sub-hub now include limited information on how climate change will impact crop and livestock production, pastures, haylands, and forests. After hiring a web design team, the website now includes links to regional assessments, regional data and research, and educational materials.
The climate hubs and sub-hubs are physically housed in U.S. Forest Service and USDA Agricultural Research Service offices. However, a number USDA agencies, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency, Rural Development, and others participate in the effort.
In announcing the new climate hubs website, USDA noted, “we’ll be working behind the scenes to keep the site up to date with news and events, but we need your input and feedback to help us make the site most useful. Feel free to contact us with your thoughts and suggestions.” In the coming months, we expect the partnering agencies to continue to populate the website with information that is useful to farmers, ranchers, forest owners, and conservation practitioners. NSAC looks forward to learning more specifics about the regional work plans, division of labor among the participating agencies and partners, and particular actions that the regional hubs will be taking.