Agriculture Unfairly Blamed for Climate Change
April 25, 2014

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said this week that agriculture tends to take the brunt of criticism about climate change when the industry contributes only nine percent of the greenhouse gases blamed for a warming planet.

"Everyone assumes what's happening globally is happening nationally," said Vilsack, a keynote speaker at Drake University forum on climate change. "Clearly, there are challenges globally in terms of agriculture and its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. That's not necessarily the case in the United States."

By comparison, farming contributes a smaller percentage than other industries. For example, transportation contributes 28 percent of the nation's greenhouse emissions, public utilities - 32 percent and other industries - 20 percent, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Still, Vilsack said the nation is confronting several environmental farm issues, including severe drought and dwindling water access in some areas.

"Our challenge is to educate farmers about the vulnerability of agriculture," when it comes to climate change, he said. "We've seen temperatures increase since 1970 accelerate at three times the rate prior. So there are warning signs."

That's one reason why the agency has created seven climate hubs across the country, including Ames, to look at the ramifications of climate change and what actions should be taken to mitigate them, Vilsack stressed.

Reprinted in part from The Des Moines Register