Latest Obama action to help rural communities deal with climate change

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack speaks about a drought destroying crops and livestock during a July 2012 White House briefing. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages)

The Agriculture Department (USDA) named seven “Climate Hubs” around the country Wednesday that are aimed at helping farmers, ranchers and rural communities address increasing threats from fires, invasive pests, floods and droughts.

The centers will be responsible for disseminating information about ways to mitigate their risks from these threats and how climate change can have an effect on agriculture, ranchlands and forests. They’ll also help with evaluating the risks from climate change in each region and where they are vulnerable.

“For generations, America's farmers, ranchers and forest landowners have innovated and adapted to challenges. Today, they face a new and more complex threat in the form of a changing and shifting climate, which impacts both our nation's forests and our farmers' bottom lines," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "USDA's Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate."  

The hubs, which were chosen through a competition selection process among USDA facilities, will be spread out across the U.S. and most will be located at the Agricultural Research Service or Forest Service. The cities hosting the hubs are Ames, Iowa, Durham, N.H., Raleigh, N.C., Fort Collins, Colo., El Reno, Okla., Corvallis, Ore., and Las Cruces, N.M. There are also three subsidiary hubs in Houghton, Mich., Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico and Davis, Calif.

In the press release announcing the hubs the USDA cited growing seasons and fire seasons that have become weeks or months longer than they were just a few decades ago. The increased risk of insect outbreaks, fire, drought and storms threaten the food supply and cost producers and rural economies money, they said.

For President Obama, the hubs are another example of his push to take action on issues via executive action, moves that do not require approval from Congress.

“We have to act with more urgency because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought and coastal cities dealing with floods,” he said during his 2014 State of the Union address. “The shift to a cleaner energy economy won't happen overnight, and it will require some tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children's children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for