Vilsack confident climate change hitting farmers

Agriculture Secretary Tom VilsackThomas James VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE said on Wednesday he is confident climate change is impacting farmers and rural communities.

Vilsack formally announced the launch of the Obama administration's new climate hubs, which are aimed at helping farmers, ranchers, and communities adapt to and mitigate climate change.

When asked at the daily White House briefing if the initiative was formed to address climate issues farmers are currently facing or a move to prepare for future events, Vilsack said climate change impacts farmers now.

"I can tell you without any hesitancy that because we didn't have a good assessment, or accurate forecasting, some of the live stock producers in the Dakotas couldn't make it," Vilsack said, referring to the recent polar vortex and severe snowstorms. "There are ramifications today."

"When you take a look at the intensity of the storms, the length of droughts, those factors convince me that the climate is changing. If we are not proactive as the president has directed we will find ourselves five, 10, years down the road wishing we had done what we are doing today," Vilsack added.

"These events threaten our food supply and are costly for producers and rural economies," the department said in a statement prior to Vilsack's announcement.

The Agriculture Department estimates droughts alone have cost the U.S. $50 billion from 2011-2013.

The administration currently has $120 million dedicated to climate change mitigation from its research budget, and the funding for the climate hubs will add to that.

Vilsack said it is too early to estimate how much will be directed toward the technology and research that will be used to help farmers fight climate change given the uncertainty surrounding future extreme weather events.