Ag leaders to travel to climate conference

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will be among the Cabinet officers following President Barack Obama to Paris next week for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change known as COP 21, a key White House official said today.

Visack “will speak about food security and how to pursue agriculture that allows us to feed populations and yet combat climate change,” Ben Rhodes, assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said in a call to reporters.

Also attending will be Secretary of State John Kerry, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, Rhodes added.

The two-week negotiating conference will be held November 30 to December 11. Obama will attend the early part of the conference rather than the end, a decision White House officials said had been made by the French government because the last climate change conference ran into trouble before world leaders arrived.

The White House did not announce details of Vilsack’s travel schedule or his activities.

Agriculture groups with differing agendas have planned side events in Paris.

Kathleen Merrigan, the former Agriculture deputy secretary who is now head of sustainability at George Washington University, will participate in an event sponsored by the United Nations Environment Program office to highlight a report on sustainable agriculture.

Ernie Shea, president of Solutions from the Land and the coordinator of the North American Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance, said other side events will be sponsored by:

▪ December 1 — World Business Council for Sustainable Development

▪ December 2 — USDA at the U.S. Pavilion

▪ December 2 — Business for Social Responsibility

▪ December 3 —Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture

▪ December 5-6 —Global Landscapes Forum

–The Hagstrom Report