Vilsack gives White House press briefing | TSLN.com

Vilsack gives White House press briefing

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One day after the Senate approved the farm bill conference report and two days before President Barack Obama will travel to Michigan to sign it, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined White House press secretary Jay Carney at his press briefing today to talk about USDA's efforts to fight climate change.

Vilsack repeated to a broader audience themes that he has been discussing in the agriculture community for the past year, but he also answered questions on some other farm bill issues.

"The president has been quite insistent in Cabinet meetings and in private meetings that he expects his Cabinet to be forceful and to act; we can't wait for congressional action," Vilsack said.

As part of the Obama administration's climate action plan, he said, USDA has established "climate change hubs" in seven states — New Hampshire, North Carolina, Iowa, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico and Oregon — and substations in California, Michigan and Puerto Rico.

"These climate change hubs and the substations are going to do a risk analysis of crop production and of forestry in terms of changing climates," he said. "We'll determine from those vulnerabilities strategies and technologies and steps that can be taken to mitigate the impacts and effects of climate change, as well as adapting to new ways of agriculture."

Vilsack also blogged on the issue on the White House website today.

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The hubs, he added, "will take full advantage of the partnerships that we have with land-grant universities, our sister federal agencies, as well as the private and non-profit sector."

Asked about the impact of the farm bill cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps, Vilsack said that if there are any people who lose their eligibility for benefits, USDA will work with them to see if they are not still qualified.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has said that, while more than 800,000 households may see benefit reductions, no one is supposed to lose eligiblity. F

–The Hagstrom Report