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Vilsack says USDA will act on climate change with its powers, releases state-by-state data

Following the guidelines of President Barack Obama’s speech on climate change Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today that the USDA will “aggressively proceed” to reduce carbon emissions by using the authorities it already has.

Obama said in a major speech that, although he had failed to convince Congress to act on climate change, he would use the administrative powers of the executive branch to try to reduce carbon pollution and that he would try to lead the rest of the world to take some of the same actions.

In a White House-arranged call, Vilsack and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Sean Donovan released data on the details of climate change in each state. Although each state entry contains some information that is the same for all 50 states, the documents do contain individual assessments of carbon pollution in each state and a list of climate change problems and efforts to address them.

Vilsack noted that the drought last year resulted in $17 billion in crop insurance payments to farmers and that USDA had spent $2 billion fighting forest fires last year. If climate change is not addressed, Vilsack said, “Americans will not be able to grow and raise the products we currently raise because conditions will not allow it.”

Vilsack said that USDA will focus on conservation of farm land and restoration of forests. He also noted that USDA’s Rural Utilities Service is working with rural electric co-operatives to help rural utility customers get more electricity from renewable sources. He also noted that the dairy industry has committed itself to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that USDA has funded anaerobic digesters.