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USDA Launches Program to Help Utah Farmers Deal With Climate Change

PHOTO: The federal government is taking steps to help farmers meet the challenges climate change is causing for agriculture. Photo courtesy of the Utah Broadband Project.
PHOTO: The federal government is taking steps to help farmers meet the challenges climate change is causing for agriculture. Photo courtesy of the Utah Broadband Project.
February 17, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is setting up regional hubs to help farmers in Utah and across the nation be better equipped to deal with climate change. Charles Rango, USDA research hydrologist, said the Jornada Experimental Range near Las Cruces, N.M., has been designated as a "Climate Hub" for Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada.

Researchers will provide the latest data on projected precipitation and other climate factors to farmers, ranchers and forest land owners, Rango said.

"We'll get the message out about climate change and, hopefully, ways to remedy that - or minimize the effects," he said.

The climate hubs are needed to help farmers know how much irrigation water is available and to plan accordingly, he explained. Global warming has affected the climate to the point that farmers can no longer count on historical averages to determine water levels and plant crops accordingly, he added.

Climate change is indisputable, Rango said, no longer a political issue but a fact that is hurting farmers on the ground. He pointed to continuing greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil fuels as the major cause of global warming, adding that the climate hubs are meant to meet the challenge head-on.

"Things are definitely happening, and we need to address them," he said. "This is one way we could address this situation."

While global warming is a problem, he said, it is not necessarily the cause of several years of drought in the Southwest.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - UT