On February 5, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the creation of the first ever Regional Hubs for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change at seven locations around the country. “Climate Hubs” will address increasing risks such as fires, invasive pests, devastating floods, and crippling droughts on a regional basis, aiming to translate science and research into information to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners on ways to adapt and adjust their resource management.
In his State of the Union Address, President Obama pledged that his Administration will continue to do everything in its power to act on climate change. The February 5th announcement is part of the President’s Climate Action Plan to responsibly cut carbon pollution, slow the effects of climate change and put America on track to a cleaner environment. In the Southeast, the Hub will play an important role in helping stakeholders address the more frequent and longer periods of drought forecast for the future.
“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 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.”
USDA chose the Hubs through a competitive process to create regional centers of outreach to adapt to and mitigate climate change risks to the agriculture and forestry sector such as wildfires, invasive pests, and droughts. The Southeastern Regional Climate Hub (SERCH) in Raleigh, North Carolina, is a multi-agency approach involving the Agriculture Research Service (ARS), Forest Service, and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Steven McNulty, Supervisory Ecologist with the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) will lead SERCH, which is located on the campus of North Carolina State University.
“Farmers, ranchers, and foresters in the Southeast already feel the pressures of weather variability and climate change, including billions of dollars of crop and timber losses due to drought,” said McNulty. “Landowners need information and technical assistance on how they can meet their land objectives given the unpredictable weather patterns.”
SERCH’s purpose is to deliver science-based knowledge and practical information about how to manage forests under unpredictable weather patterns to farmers, ranchers, and forest land managers at the region level. Together, the SERCH agencies will provide forestry and food production research and conservation assistance to benefit landowners and managers throughout the Southeast.
SERCH will coordinate with local and regional partners in Federal and state agencies, universities, non-governmental organizations, private companies, and Tribes to provide:
- Technical support for land managers to respond to drought, heat stress, floods, pests, and changes in growing season;
- Assessments and regional forecasts to provide more time to prepare hazard and adaptation planning; and
- Outreach and education venues for farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners conveying ways to adapt and mitigate risks and thrive despite climate change.
“Forestry is a very strong component of agriculture in the Southeast,” added Rob Doudrick, SRS Director. “Over 55 percent by volume of U.S. timber harvest comes from the southeastern region, earning the area the nickname ‘the nation’s wood basket.’ Although the region contains only 2 percent of the world’s forest cover, it produces 25 percent of the world’s pulpwood and 18 percent of the world’s industrial timber. SERCH will provide research-based information to help forest landowners and managers continue this high level of production.”
“Agricultural production in the Southeast is some of the most diverse in the U.S., with the region being a leading producer of cotton, rice, and tobacco, to name just a few products,” said Darren Hickman, Director of the NRCS East National Technology Support Center located in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Georgia leads the nation in peanut production, harvesting half a million tons annually, while Florida produces over 70 percent of the nation’s citrus crop. SERCH will enable NRCS to convey important information to farmers on how to adapt to climate change.”
“ARS looks forward to relating research findings directly to the public in such important areas as building soil organic matter, sequestering carbon, determining how major crops can produce more yield under different climate change scenarios, and developing varieties of wheat, barley, corn, and soybean that are climate resilient,” said David Marshall, Research Leader of ARS Plant Science Research also located at NSCU in Raleigh. “We can achieve this goal by understanding what climate change is doing to our major crops and providing information on how to address these effects through SERCH.”
“This is the next step in USDA’s decades of work alongside farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to keep up production in the face of ongoing and developing challenges,” said McNulty. “By translating science and research into action, SERCH will ensure that our managers in the field and our stakeholders in the Southeast have the tools and resources they need.”
For more information, email Steven McNulty at Steve_Mcnulty@ncsu.edu
More information is available on the SERCH page.