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Climate Change: What Is Happening In Alaska I


MIKE PLUMER CARBONDALE, ILL.


recently attended a national Extension meeting on the topic


of “climate change.” This was a comprehen- sive look at all the is- sues and data that is available and some strategies. We learned that climate in Alaska


and northern Canada is changing, but much of the data showed that the Midwest was not expected to change. The speakers emphasized that 5-year trends are mean- ingless variability, that model accuracy is limited to 30 years, and that planning should look at these impacts out to 50 to 100 years. The big difference I saw is that University


of Alaska and Extension understand the is- sues and are addressing how to adapt to the


changes. They are planning for the changes rather than trying to mitigate or stop the change. Some of the issues discussed at the meeting included changing plant species, water and energy management, changes in weather severity, developing programs and plans for the changes, and looking at the positive impacts of climate change. Temperatures dramatically started chang-


ing in 1976 and currently are 8 degrees warmer. Northern Alaska has seen the polar ice move away from the shoreline, which has caused severe shoreline erosion. Winter temperatures are expected to warm more than 20 degrees. Interior Alaska is seeing the permafrost


melting, and new species of trees and shrubs are establishing. It looks like the growing season is getting longer, and now farmers can raise barley and are consider- ing wheat production. But with the higher temperatures, rainfall


may limit production. June temperatures were in the 80s in Fairbanks. The southern


Alaska winter temperatures are increasing to the point that some expect winters may be above freezing within a few years. Losing the permafrost and exposing soil to


erosion is a major concern across Alaska. Al- ready, houses and roads are collapsing into holes caused by the permafrost melting. University of Alaska and Extension are ac-


tively working on planning, assessing the changes and helping communities adapt to the changes. They have formed the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy (www.uaf.edu/accap ) and SNAP, Scenarios Network


for (www.snap.eud.edu). Alaska


Planning ∆


MIKE PLUMER: Extension Educator, Natu-


ral Resources Management, University of Illi- nois


Vilsack Wants To ‘Replenish’ The Farm Supply “With the rule for the program now in


CONTINUED FROM PAGE 3


place, the question now is where is USDA’s plan to aggressively promote and do out- reach on the program?” notes NSAC. “Or for instance, the statutory Advisory


Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, whose charge it is to advise the Secretary on how USDA can better serve beginning farmers and adopt policies to create new farming opportunities, has ceased functioning during the first two years of the Obama Administration after never missing a year during the Clinton and Bush years.” NSAC wants to know: “Why have no appointments been made and no meetings held? The last farm bill also authorized the cre-


ation of a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Account program to assist low income individuals to become farmers through matched savings ac- counts and financial training. It also cre- ated a new national program, based on an earlier pilot program, linking retiring and new farmers through federal guarantees of private land contracts into a nationwide program. Neither of these programs seems ready to get off the ground at USDA. Profitabilty is key Several sources say that, while USDA


programs can be helpful, but the bottom line in bringing more people out into the countryside is profit. “We’d agree with the Secretary that more farmers would be a good thing. However,


one has to wonder where we would get enough land to provide 100,000 farmers with a reasonable living,” says American Farm Bureau Federation Public Policy Di- rector Mary Kay Thatcher: If they were all small farmers and doing this on a part- time basis, it might be possible – but not on a normal sized scale operation.” Randy Russell, a former USDA official


who is now president the lobbying firm Russell & Barron President agrees that the Secretary is on the right track. “The Secretary is right to focus on the


dire need for economic development in rural America. And he is right to focus on the cultivation of the next generation of American farming greatness,” says Rus- sell. “While the goal of increasing the num- ber of farmers is a laudable objective, ultimately the goal is to enhance the eco- nomic viability of those family farmers who derive a majority of their income from the farm and who are full time farmers. USDA’s definition of farmers is so low (gross income of $1,000/yr) that simply looking at sheer numbers of farmers does- n’t address the real issue – creating an en- vironment where full time, family farmers can make a profit from producing and sell- ing their production. This means having the right balance of tax, regulatory, envi- ronmental, and trade policies in place. Profit is the key to growth in agriculture.” ∆


SARA WYANT: Publisher weekly e- newsletter, AgriPulse.


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