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About the Author: Sarah Goldfarb serves as DipNote's Associate Editor. Sarah will be providing information from presentations about key climate programs and scientific research at the U.S. Center at the 16th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-16) in Cancun, Mexico, from November 29 through December 10, 2010.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is at the forefront of U.S. efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. At the U.S. Center on December 9, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack highlighted how the USDA is helping farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners address the threats posed by climate change.
Secretary Vilsack said, “Climate change is a serious, long-term challenge facing our planet, and the United States is taking serious actions to meet this challenge.” He pointed out that he and U.S. President Barack Obama believe we can advance green energy, mitigate the effects of climate change, and create jobs.
Over the past 20 months, Secretary Vilsack said the USDA has made addressing climate change a priority. Even in the absence of national climate legislation, he said an opportunity remains for farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to be compensated for the offset of greenhouse gas emissions.
Secretary Vilsack highlighted steps the USDA is taking in the next year to help landowners reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase sequestration of carbon, and improve their financial bottom line. He said, “We intend to be aggressively committed to this agenda in 2011.” One of these steps includes using tools developed by the U.S. Forest Service, to show farmers how the carbon is sequestered.
Through the Global Research Alliance, the Obama administration and the USDA are working with international partners to mitigate the human effects of climate change. Secretary Vilsack said these efforts will find more effective ways to share research results, technologies, best practices, as well as share these findings with farmers across the globe. In October 2010, Secretary Vilsack announced the Borlaug Fellowship Program, which helps developing countries strengthen sustainable agricultural practices by providing scientific training and collaborative research opportunities to visiting researchers, policymakers, and university faculty. He also highlighted the Feed the Future initiative, which works to curb global hunger and increase food security. The initiative is a whole-of-government effort to create concrete investment plans, which will strengthen the entire agricultural chain.
Secretary Vilsack also discussed how the U.S. Forest Service, a division of the USDA, is responding to climate change. Just as the U.S. government is working with other nations to reduce forest degradation, the Forest Service has integrated responding to climate change in its everyday actions. He said that the Forest Service's roadmap is designed to make our forests more resilient, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and sequester carbon. Since a large portion of U.S. forests are privately owned, the Forest Service is working with landowners to conserve, restore, and manage privately-owned forests. He also highlighted investments the United States is making to the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program.
In closing, Secretary Vilsack said, "As the USDA works with its farmers, ranchers, and landowners, we recognize the challenges that climate change presents, but we also recognize there are new markets that can provide revenue for agriculture and forestry."Become a fan of the Bureau of Oceans, Environment, and Science on Facebook and follow all of the action at COP-16. You can find press releases, program events, transcripts, presentations from the U.S. Center and more on state.gov/cop16.