USDA on Monday said it would be updating its policies to better integrate climate change adaptation into its programs and operations.
The move is an effort to ensure taxpayers' resources are "invested wisely," a statement from the agency said, and that USDA services and operations "remain effective under current and future climate conditions."
The agency says climate change effects are complex and far-reaching and potential changes could have important impacts on the ability of USDA to fulfill its mission.
Under the updated USDA Policy Statement on Climate Change Adaptation, USDA recognizes that climate stressors have consequences for food production, yields of staple crops, forests and grasslands, and these, in turn, affect the economic well-being of individuals.
"Climate change adaptation is a critical component of climate change and a complement to mitigation planning," the statement said. "Both are required to address the causes, consequences and potential benefits of climate change. USDA is taking a leadership role with climate adaptation planning to safeguard a resilient, healthy and prosperous Nation in the face of changing climate."
Under the changes announced today, USDA will:
• Integrate climate change adaptation planning, implementing actions, and performance metrics into USDA programs, policies and operations to minimize climate risks and exploit new opportunities that climate change may bring;
• Analyze how climate change is likely to affect its ability to achieve its mission, operations and policy and program objectives;
• Identify appropriate key performance measures to evaluate progress in climate change adaptation;
• Participate in adaptation implementation as part of a broader commitment to developing the next generation of regional climate solutions through USDA Regional Hubs for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change;
• Incorporate climate-resilient decision-making into international development programs and investments of relevant USDA agencies; and
• Develop and maintain an adaptation plan for managing the challenges and consider potential climate change impacts when undertaking long-term exercise, setting priorities for scientific research and developing performance measures.
USDA says the changes are consistent with the USDA Strategic Plan and with guidance from the Council on Environmental Quality and the Federal Council on Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience.
In April, the Department listed 10 "building blocks" that will use partnerships and other resources to work with farmers in implementing new ways to farm more efficiently as part of its effort to adapt to climate change.
They build on the USDA "climate hubs" announced in 2013, and are in line with White House efforts to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.
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