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Agriculture Secretary Refuses To Link Drought and Climate Change

Agriculture Secretary Refuses To Link Drought and Climate Change


The Midwest and South are going through one of the worst droughts in U.S. history. The statistics Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack cited about the damage the drought is doing to crops on July 18 during a press briefing are quite staggering.

A whopping total of† 78 percent of the corn crop in the U.S. is in an area designated as drought impacted. The soybean crop is also affected, with 77 percent of the soybeans grown in the U.S. impacted. A total of 38 percent of the corn crop and 30 percent of the soybeans†are rated poor to very poor. The yields will be down about 20 bushels to the acre for corn and about three bushels to the acre for soybeans.

When asked about climate change, Vilsack was not as forthright. In fact, he said, “Iím not a scientist, so Iím not going to opine as to the cause of this.” He added that the focus of the USDA is to help farmers and ranchers by lowering interest rates, and expanding access to grazing and haying opportunities, lowering penalties associated with that, and encouraging Congress to provide aid. “And thatís where our focus is.”

During an interview on Marketplace Morning Report the day after the press briefing, Vilsack again refused to talk about the link between drought and climate change. When asked if the drought is caused by climate change, he answered, “Well, Iím not an expert on climate change so it probably wouldnít be appropriate for me to respond specifically to that question.”

The focus of the USDA and President Obama, Vilsack said, is on “making sure that we get help to these folks, making sure, for example, that people know that they got to contact their insurance agent, if they have crop insurance, that they may have a damaged crop so that they wonít lose rights under their policy.”

In other words, Vilsack, and by extension, Obama, refuse to talk about the link between the drought affecting a large portion of the U.S. and human-induced climate change. It makes little sense for Vilsack to not discuss the link. In a bit of irony, on the same day that Visack did the interview, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report that said 55 percent of the contiguous U.S. was under moderate to extreme drought in June. This is the largest land area in the country to be affected by a drought since December 1956.

In October 2010, a study the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) said in a report that warming temperatures associated with climate change will likely cause increasingly dry soil conditions in much of the world in the next 30 years.

“We are facing the possibility of widespread drought in the coming decades, but this has yet to be fully recognized by both the public and the climate change research community,” author of the report, Aiguo Dai said. “If the projections in this study come even close to being realized, the consequences for society worldwide will be enormous.”

Tell Vilsack to do the right thing

It is time for Vilsack to provide U.S. farmers with all the facts they need to cope with the drought that is damaging their livelihoods. Sign the petition, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack: Farmers Need Facts On Climate Change and Drought.


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Photo: Flickr user, NRCS California

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9:58AM PDT on Oct 11, 2012

His track record on a lot of issues is suspect and he needs to do something else. What does he really do as Secretary to protect the enviornment?

9:17PM PDT on Sep 9, 2012

Vilsack needs to grow a pair and get a spine transplant. Farmers need the most recent scientific evidence to work with and plan for the future, not just apply to their insurance agents for this year's damage. Long-range planning is what's needed for them and for the country and the world.

Global warming was pronounced at the DNC!

1:35PM PDT on Aug 22, 2012

This man is an ASS! Kick the ASS out.

11:47AM PDT on Aug 22, 2012

The deniers of climate change must be the most stubborn, self serving bunch of nitwits around. faced with a wealth of evidence, they continue to bury their heads in the sand. good news for them, soon there will be a lot of sand to hide from reality in.

12:03AM PDT on Aug 22, 2012

Maybe an independent farmer who has lost practically everything due to this drought would be more succesful as the Sec of Agr than Vilsack. At least he (or she) would at least have had some experience in agriculture.

4:29PM PDT on Aug 12, 2012

Vilsack and most of the evil politicians around the world should be declared environmental terrorists. Obama is not much better than Bush.

11:47AM PDT on Aug 8, 2012

First of all responsible organic farmers have drip irrigation and other permaculture sustainable drought mitigation measures, unlike big agri which faces a ruined Liberty Corn crop for its "(inedible)Corn-fed" feedlot cattle, pig, and chicken mass slaughter and its high fructose corn syrup "product". See the movie "King Corn". Secondly farmers have crop insurance so they don't need to be showered with the people's money by Congress and the President.

12:33PM PDT on Aug 6, 2012

thanks for the post

11:01AM PDT on Aug 3, 2012

What an idiot........

6:52PM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

Some folks sure do enjoy stepping in it.

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