Unleashing Climate Data to Empower America’s Agricultural Sector

Secretary Tom Vilsack and John P. Holdren at the White House Blog: “Today, in a major step to advance the President’s Climate Data Initiative, the Obama administration is inviting leaders of the technology and agricultural sectors to the White House to discuss new collaborative steps to unleash data that will help ensure our food system is resilient to the effects of climate change.

More intense heat waves, heavier downpours, and severe droughts and wildfires out west are already affecting the nation’s ability to produce and transport safe food. The recently released National Climate Assessment makes clear that these kinds of impacts are projected to become more severe over this century.

Food distributors, agricultural businesses, farmers, and retailers need accessible, useable data, tools, and information to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of their operations – from water availability, to timing of planting and harvest, to storage practices, and more.

Today’s convening at the White House will include formal commitments by a host of private-sector companies and nongovernmental organizations to support the President’s Climate Data Initiative by harnessing climate data in ways that will increase the resilience of America’s food system and help reduce the contribution of the nation’s agricultural sector to climate change.

Microsoft Research, for instance, will grant 12 months of free cloud-computing resources to winners of a national challenge to create a smartphone app that helps farmers increase the resilience of their food production systems in the face of weather variability and climate change; the Michigan Agri-Business Association will soon launch a publicly available web-based mapping tool for use by the state’s agriculture sector; and the U.S. dairy industry will test and pilot four new modules – energy, feed, nutrient, and herd management – on the data-driven Farm Smart environmental-footprint calculation tool by the end of 2014. These are just a few among dozens of exciting commitments.

And the federal government is also stepping up. Today, anyone can log onto climate.data.gov and find new features that make data accessible and usable about the risks of climate change to food production, delivery, and nutrition – including current and historical data from the Census of Agriculture on production, supply, and distribution of agricultural products, and data on climate-change-related risks such as storms, heat waves, and drought.

These steps are a direct response to the President’s call for all hands on deck to generate further innovation to help prepare America’s communities and business for the impacts of climate change.

We are delighted about the steps being announced by dozens of collaborators today, and we can’t wait to see what further tools, apps, and services are developed as the Administration and its partners continue to unleash data to make America’s agriculture enterprise stronger and more resilient than ever before.

Read a fact sheet about all of today’s Climate Data Initiative commitments here.