Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its climate adaptation and resilience plan, which outlines the department’s plans to integrate climate adaptation into USDA missions and programs. The plan is a response to President Biden’s executive order requiring a whole-of-government response to the climate crisis.
Below is a statement by Marcia DeLonge, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“It is incredibly encouraging to see USDA taking a holistic approach to building a more resilient food and farm system. By committing to investing in soil health, supporting multidisciplinary science and outreach to help adapt to a changing climate, making climate data more available, while keeping equity and environmental justice at the forefront, USDA will help ensure that farmers have the tools and support to confront the climate crisis and secure our food system for the future.
“This comes on the heels of this week’s announcement of $146 million in funding from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Sustainable Agricultural Systems program to support science addressing critical issues—including improving sustainable water use in the West, increasing food and nutrition security among children, and using perennials to improve agricultural diversity and resilience. This represents significant progress toward creating a more sustainable food system.
“But in spite of all this good news, the fact remains that the USDA is responding to the climate crisis with one hand tied behind its back. To effectively respond to the urgency of the climate crisis, we need action that reflects the scale of the challenge.
“Right now, Congress is poised to take the greatest step in generations to transform our food and agriculture system to be more resilient, sustainable and equitable by making bold investments in climate-focused agricultural conservation programs and research through the reconciliation package. These investments are critical in helping the United States reach the Biden administration’s goal of cutting total heat-trapping emissions by at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 and transitioning to a net-zero emissions economy no later than 2050.
“These investments also are critical to meet the needs of the moment, when many USDA conservation and research programs are oversubscribed, underfunded and often overlook underserved communities. For example, over the past decade more than half of applicants for programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program were turned away. And we continue to underinvest in research led by those most affected by climate change, namely communities of color and frontline communities.
“The USDA recognizes the critical role our food and farm system must play in confronting the climate crisis. Congress can catalyze the transformation by fully investing in critical agricultural conservation, research and equity programs.”