Ag Policy Blog

Obama to Detail New Climate Initiatives

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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In a speech Tuesday, President Obama will lay out a series of executive actions his administration is planning or initiating to combat climate change.

The speech at Georgetown University comes on the heels of comments the president gave last week in Berlin. It also comes just two weeks after Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke at the National Press Club about climate change and laid out some of the work at USDA to deal with the challenges.

The president released a video on Saturday that touched on the subject. He called climate change "a serious challenge – but it’s one uniquely suited to America’s strengths."

For biofuel advocates, the president's brief video provided some positive indications that the administration would continue supporting efforts to grow renewable fuels and more investment into research on renewables.

"We’ll need scientists to design new fuels, and farmers to grow them," the president said. "We’ll need engineers to devise new sources of energy, and businesses to make and sell them. We’ll need workers to build the foundation for a clean energy economy."

While saying there is no single step or effort that can reverse the effects of climate change, the president gave some explanation why steps are needed.

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"And we’ll need all of us, as citizens, to do our part to preserve God’s creation for future generations – our forests and waterways, our croplands and snowcapped peaks."

The "why we should care" element of climate change is perhaps the area where the White House has largely failed to make its case to the American public about the long-term effects of climate change and the increased weather volatility

With Congress failing to take up the topic, the administration is putting more long-term research on the risks to agriculture and the food supply. Vilsack, speaking to DTN on Friday, said he didn't know exactly what the president would say in Tuesday's speech related to agriculture, but clearly the administration is putting a spotlight on these topics. Vilsack, in his speech, said climate change is a new and different threat to agriculture. Of course, if the president expressed similar sentiments, it would put a much brighter spotlight on the challenges.

"Any time the president speaks it makes a difference," Vilsack said Friday. "I think it's important to point out this administration has already gone on record on agriculture ...We are clearly focused on this issue as an administration and at USDA."

USDA is creating seven new "regional climate hubs" that have yet to be named. Those hubs will combine work at USDA and land-grant universities to provide farmers with tools for best management practices and risk mitigation to challenge ranging from pest management to water availability.

Another key USDA decision is the marrying of agency recommendations and policies on cover-crop management to reduce soil erosion and encourage more carbon sequestration.

Yet, Vilsack noted the president has a broad array of interests to highlight on a topic such as climate change. The president is likely to talk about the risks to forests due to longer droughts and invasive species that have ravaged forests in the west.

"The president also is concerned about the impact on our nation's forests, which is directly related to the water supply, particularly in the western United States," Vilsack said.

White House video:…

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