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Fifth National Climate Assessment - Read the Report

Department of Agriculture

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) global change research activities reflect the challenges posed to agriculture, forests, and natural resources by climate change, and the promise of addressing the climate challenge from within the land sector. USDA’s research aims to understand the role of agricultural and forest systems in contributing climate change, the risks and vulnerabilities facing these sectors, opportunities to reduce emissions and increase sequestration, and strategies to enhance productivity while building resilience to climate change. USDA’s global change research is focused on the development and evaluation of innovative practices and technologies, monitoring networks, and a range of analyses and modeling efforts to investigate outcomes of climate scenarios and adoption of climate-smart practices. USDA partners with research institutions and the private sector to ensure that useful and useable data are collected across landscapes to observe effects and responses to climate change. The outcomes of these wide-ranging scientific activities are synthesized to be region- and context-specific to support USDA’s delivery of programs and assistance that best enable farmers, ranchers, land managers, and rural communities to make decisions in a changing climate.

Within USDA, climate change research activities harness the combined strengths of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Forest Service (FS), the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the Economic Research Service (ERS), the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The Department’s scientific reach extends beyond the direct Federal investment to include its network of Land Grant and Minority Serving Colleges and Universities, Cooperative Extension, an active extramural research enterprise, and the USDA Climate Hubs. 

The USDA Climate Hubs provide regionally relevant science-based tools and information for agricultural producers and natural resource managers to support adaptation and mitigation efforts and increase resilience in a changing climate. The Hubs’ outreach, education, and extension activities provide a conduit for the latest USGCRP-supported research and facilitate the implementation of cutting-edge science for enhanced decision-making and risk management. The Hubs are an important example of USDA’s cross-organizational regional collaborations, placing technical solutions in the hands of farmers, ranchers, forestland owners, and resource managers to achieve better management, climate, and socio-economic outcomes.

Selected areas of priority USDA research and development for climate-smart practices and technologies, nature-based climate solutions, and user-driven scientific research include

  • The effects of climate change on crop and livestock production, and the adaptive management capacity to manage outcomes
  • The potential within agriculture and forestry for greenhouse gas emissions mitigation 
  • Wildfire mitigation and response
  • The implications of climate change on agricultural markets
  • Drought resilience and risk management
  • Maintaining and enhancing soil resources
  • Developing new varieties of plants and animals that can adapt to changing climate conditions
  • Observational monitoring networks, such as the Soil Climate Analysis Network (SCAN), the Snowpack Telemetry Network (SNOTEL), and the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program
  • Techniques and technologies to ensure efficient water delivery