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Dramatic supercell storm in southern Montana. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

NIFA Celebrates Climate Hubs for 10 Years of Helping Farmers, Ranchers and Forest Landowners Enhance Climate Resilience

Nifa Authors
Marissa Weiss, Climate Change Fellow
John Martins, Public Affairs Specialist
Dr. Amy Ganguli , National Program Leader
Rachel Melnick, Division Director

In honor of the 10th anniversary of the USDA Climate Hubs, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is celebrating accomplishments from the first decade of this pioneering network. 

NIFA hosted the competition to establish the Hubs a decade ago and supports collaborations and outreach at the Hubs through several funding programs in the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, such as the Extension, Education and USDA Climate Hubs Partnership program. 

A Resource for Increasing Resilience to Climate Extremes and Uncertainties 

The mission of the Hubs is to connect farmers, rancher and forest landowners and managers with up-to-date and regionally specific research, such as risk assessments and vulnerability analyses, that they can use to identify and manage risks. The Hubs offer distinctive value by facilitating research, education and Extension activities about climate change nationwide.  

Collectively the Hubs form a comprehensive national network, while each individual Hub operates regionally, providing land and resource managers with highly relevant local information for managing increasing risks and uncertainties caused by flooding, drought, extreme heat, ice storms and other consequences of climate change. Ultimately, the Hubs are a resource to help land and resource managers use science to increase resilience and stability in the face of unprecedented environmental change. 

Climate Hubs achieve this mission through collaboration and partnerships, education and outreach, and an explicit focus on environmental justice.  

Here we feature four projects that illustrate how the Climate Hubs are leveraging strategic partnerships, advancing climate justice, and strengthening education. 

Strategic Partnerships 

Climate-smart Caribbean 

At the Caribbean Climate Hub, the Climate-Smart Caribbean project — which brings together nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations with Extension teams in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands — is creating bilingual materials in English and Spanish for children and adults including farmers and forest managers.   

The goal of this effort is two-fold: to support farmers, forest managers and Extension in making climate-smart decisions so that communities are more resilient to extreme events; and to develop relationships to support research and technology transfer of climate-smart solutions for agriculture and forestry.  

“Each partner included in the Climate-Smart Caribbean project brings unique expertise and resources to the table,” said Viviana Medina, project coordinator. “Collectively, they possess a wealth of knowledge in climate science, agriculture, forestry, education, and community engagement.” 

Sustainable Southwest Beef Project 

Improving the resilience of Southwest ranches to climate change is the goal of the Sustainable Southwest Beef Project. The Extension team of this NIFA-funded project is led by the Southwest Climate Hub. They have developed key outreach to raise awareness of technologies for grazing management that will make ranching more resilient to drought. Adaptations include virtual fencing, remotely monitored water troughs and rain gauges, and raising Criollo cattle. 

“The reason we have started to switch over to Criollos is they appear so far to be much more adapted to the fragile nature of our high desert country,” said rancher and project partner Rob Paulin of Corta Madera Ranch, in a Southwest Climate Hub outreach video. Ranchers at five ranches in the region are partnering with the project team to better understand the profitability and sustainability of this breed.   

Climate Justice 

Native Climate: Strengthening the role of Climate Hubs in Indian Country 

The Native Climate project is creating culturally relevant climate information and sustaining vital relationships for communicating about climate challenges and solutions in Indian Country. The goal of the project is to improve the resilience of Native agriculture and subsistence lifeways to extreme weather events including heat and drought, in partnership with the Southwest and Northern Plains Climate Hubs.  

Participants in the project include Tribal Extension agents, Native farmers, educators and students from Tribal colleges and universities. The project supports a Native Climate Data Fellow, Native Education Fellow and three Native Climate Reporters. They create culturally relevant resources for knowledge sharing, such as protocols for climate data sovereignty, K-12 education modules on water and wildfires, and journalism about the importance of climate adaptation to sustain culturally important plants such as Coyote Willow

The team recently launched a new Native Climate website which contains a trove of information including local climate projections for all 34 Tribal Colleges and Universities. 

Migrant Clinicians Network 

Dr. Marysel Pagán Santana of the Migrant Clinicians Network, a nonprofit health justice organization,      is leading a partnership to address the critical need for agricultural workers to access life-saving information about climate-related hazards in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Project partners include the Caribbean Climate Hub and a youth leadership nonprofit.  

Their approach is to build relationships between healthcare providers and vulnerable agricultural workers. That way, agricultural workers can learn about hazards like mudslides and unsafe drinking water, while also meeting potential caregivers who can help with health questions and needs.  

The team is also creating culturally relevant information about climate-fueled disasters such as hurricanes, droughts, floods, heatwaves, wildfires, mudslides and unsafe drinking water. Through relationship-building and information exchange, the project aims to increase communities’ resilience to climate change. 

“Year after year, our region suffers from intensifying climate-related events,” said Dr. Pagán Santana, in a funding announcement on her organization’s website. “We need to support our communities as we adapt and understand mitigation and often lifesaving strategies to respond to our climate crisis.”  


Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Fellowship 

The Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Fellowship, led by Rachel Schattman of the University of Maine, fosters partnerships between farmers and Extension educators for peer-learning. With partners including the Northeast Climate Hub and Midwest Climate Hub, this project aims to help farmers increase their climate literacy, adapt to our changing climate, and promote sustainability.  

Fellows collaborate with an Extension educator team to develop and implement climate adaptation or mitigation plans for their farms. The program includes themed cohorts such as dairy and agroforestry  and produces peer-reviewed curricula which include information about how to access local climate data to support management decisions. 

A Decade of Impact 

Climate Hubs are making important contributions to communicating regionally specific climate science to practitioners who need this information; catalyzing and sustaining critical partnerships to advance climate solutions and environmental justice; supporting careers in climate adaptation and resilience; and advancing presidential priorities.  

“The Hubs impressively knit together three agencies - Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Agricultural Research Service – to unite on the critical mission of regional climate adaption,” said Dr. Rachel Melnick, director of NIFA's Division of Global Climate Change.  

Dr. Melnick was part of the team that released the call to establish the Hubs a decade ago. She continued, “Commendably, partnerships have grown, even beyond what we initially expected, to attend to emerging needs. Hubs are collaborating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on preparing for extreme weather, with Tribes on food sovereignty, and with educators on climate literacy. The Hubs are proving themselves to be versatile and able to meet the moment.” 

Farm Bill Priority Areas
Bioenergy, natural resources, and environment
U.S. States and Territories
New Mexico
Puerto Rico

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