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USDA Will Help Farmers Adapt to Climate Change, Says Perdue

While Democratic lawmakers and farm activists criticized President Trump for his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Treaty, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue shrugged off climate change as inevitable and said USDA was “committed to digging ever deeper into research to develop better methods of agricultural production in that changing climate.”

“Floods, droughts, and natural disasters are a fact of life for farmers, ranchers, and foresters,” said Perdue in a statement. “They have persevered in the past, and they will adapt in the future – with the assistance of the scientists and experts at USDA.”

Cargill, one of the world’s largest grain processors and foodmakers, said “We have no intention of backing away from our efforts to address climate change in the food and agriculture supply chains around the world, and, in fact, this will inspire us to work harder.” Unlike Trump, who said the Paris Accord would hurt the U.S. economy, Cargill chief executive David MacLennan said, “It would have resulted in U.S. economic growth and job creation.”

“By refusing to limit U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and lead the world in this space, President Trump is allowing increasingly unpredictable and destructive weather to wreak havoc on family farm operations, future generations, and food prices and availability for years to come,” said the National Farmers Union, the second-largest U.S. farm group. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, a small-farm advocate, joined NFU in saying climate change mitigation could provide income to farmers through payments for carbon sequestration on their land.

“The next farm bill presents an important opportunity to invest in the programs and policies needed to build resilient farms and ranches, and NSAC will work closely with our partners to ensure those investments are made,” said the coalition.

New York state Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said Trump was “irresponsibly shortsighted” in the decision. “We have irrefutable data that temperatures are rising, Arctic ice is melting, sea levels are rising, and extreme weather is becoming more severe,” she said. Maine Representative Chellie Pingree, a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees USDA spending, said, “In Maine, we already see the harmful effects of climate change. Rapidly rising temperatures are causing higher rates of asthma and tick-borne illness, warming oceans are threatening our economy by causing fish and lobsters to migrate, and rising sea levels are jeopardizing coastal communities.”

“Montanans are in a war against climate change. We have experienced increasingly massive wildfires, and our productive agricultural lands have run short on water,” said Steve Charter of the conservation group Northern Plains Resource Council that’s based in Billings, Montana.

DTN said a group of business leaders in 2015 started issuing regional “Risky Business” reports on the risks of climate change. “Among the findings were that farmers in the Midwest were among the industries best equipped to handle the risks, though crop production will continue to shift northward over time,” said DTN. “The same report noted the southeast parts of the U.S. will be most dramatically affected by higher temperatures, which would actually lower agricultural productivity in the region.”

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