AS promised in his "State of the Union" address, President Barack Obama said if he didn't get any congressional help to address what he sees as human activity that contributes to rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, he'd take actions himself to curb the increases.
At the time, he challenged Congress to come up with a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change. In a speech June 25, however, Obama said what the nation faces today is a "challenge that does not pause for partisan gridlock" and demands attention now.
He announced that he's directing his Administration to crack down on climate-disrupting carbon emissions from power plants, scale up renewable energy and boost energy efficiency for commercial, industrial and federal buildings. He also said he will reject the Keystone XL pipeline if it is bad for the climate.
The plan calls for doubling wind and solar energy production.
To help farmers adapt to the effects of the changing climate, Obama's plan "maintains agricultural productivity by delivering tailored, science-based knowledge to farmers, ranchers and landowners and helps communities prepare for drought and wildfire by launching a National Drought Resilience Partnership and by expanding and prioritizing forest and rangeland restoration efforts to make areas less vulnerable to catastrophic fire."
Although Obama noted, "We know that no single weather event is caused solely by climate change," he regularly referenced the impact weather extremes have had on the food supply in recent years.
"Farmers see crops wilted one year, washed away the next, and the higher food prices get passed on to you, the American consumer," he said.
Livestock production takes heat for contributing to increased GHG levels, and extremist groups have tried to limit livestock production as a solution. Obama's plan does not specifically call for any production restrictions.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack instead highlighted some of the actions the U.S. Department of Agriculture has taken alongside the livestock industry to improve its carbon footprint.
For instance, USDA has a memorandum of understanding with the dairy industry on a goal to reduce GHG emissions 20%. USDA has helped dairy producers work toward this goal by financing 80 anaerobic digesters nationwide.
Vilsack also highlighted the potential for conservation practices to help mitigate climate change.
This was echoed by American Farmland Trust president John Scholl, who said farmland protection, coupled with sound conservation practices that improve agricultural lands, increases the ability of farms and ranches to withstand extreme weather events, but broad engagement is needed throughout the agricultural sector.
Farmers have a great role to play in taking positive environmental steps and getting serious about reducing GHGs.
Vilsack added that the plan offers economic benefits and innovation for new industries. "I see this as a real opportunity in rural areas to bring good-paying jobs back to rural towns," he said.