Vilsack: Obama ‘Expects His Cabinet to Be Forceful and to Act’ on Climate Change Without Congress

Melanie Arter | February 5, 2014 | 3:58pm EST
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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

( - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday the establishment of “climate change hubs” in seven states – and three sub-hubs – that will assess and come up with a plan to help rural America deal with climate risks – all without congressional approval.

“The president’s been quite insistent in cabinet meetings and in private meetings that he expects his cabinet to be forceful and to act. We can’t wait for congressional action. So pursuant to his climate action plan, we established a number of climate change hubs,” Vilsack said during the White House press briefing.

The seven states are: New Hampshire, North Carolina, Iowa, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico and Oregon. The sub-stations are located in California, Michigan, and Puerto Rico.

“These climate change hubs in the sub-stations are going to do a risk analysis of crop production and of forestry in terms of changing climates. It’ll establish the vulnerabilities that we have in each region of the country, will determine from those vulnerabilities strategies and technologies and steps that can be taken to mitigate the impacts and effects of climate change as well as adapting to new ways of agriculture,” Vilsack said.

That includes “the establishment of a new research foundation which will identify up to $400 million of additional resources to go into agricultural research,” Vilsack said, adding to the $120 million already allocated for climate-related and agriculture issues.

It will provide the “opportunity to restore disaster assistance” for livestock producers that were unable to access disaster assistance because the programs under the previous farm bill expired. Those programs have now been restored, he said.

It will allow for the creation of “new market opportunities to use what is being grown and raised in creative ways,” Vilsack said. “Manufacturing is going to come back to rural America,” he predicted.

It will lead to “the establishment of a bio-based manufacturing opportunity where we take crop residue and livestock waste, turning it into chemicals, polymers and other materials,” Vilsack said, which will create new job opportunities in rural America.

Vilsack noted that “51 percent of the entire land mass of the United States is engaged in either agriculture or forestry.”

“So combined with the new farm bill and the new opportunities it creates, these climate hubs I think will equip us to make sure that the 51 percent of land mass of the United States is protected against changing climates, allow us to maintain the economic opportunity that agriculture creates in this economy often times underappreciated and under-realized,” he said.

The climate hub program will allow the United States to continue to be what Vilsack referred to as “a food secure nation.”

“The United States is blessed, because we basically create and grow just about everything we need to survive as a people. Hardly any other country in the world can say that, so we want to make sure we continue to be in that strong position,” he said.

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