US Agriculture Secretary Visits Puerto Rico to Talk Climate Change and Caribbean Agriculture

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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the Caribbean Climate Hub in Puerto Rico earlier this month to lead a roundtable discussions with local agricultural officials, farmers and ranchers, USDA agency leaders, economic investors, and scientists, and to view first-hand the Hub’s pioneering work in climate change research, education and outreach.

“Adaptation to climate change is a matter of National Security.  We need to have a functional food economy to counter food insecurity,” said Secretary Vilsack during the Climate Hub Roundtable held at the El Yunque National Forest.  Local USDA agency leaders expressed concern about the increasing incidence of pests and diseases affecting agriculture and forestry in the Caribbean, mostly related to climate change, and the need for more education and support for water and soil conservation measures.

To increase awareness and promote climate adaptation and mitigation, the Caribbean Hub has developed ADAPTA, an innovative outreach project to deliver climate services and provide tools and educational resources for practitioners through videos, factsheets and podcasts.  During the Secretary’s visit, the Caribbean Hub released the second video of the ADAPTA series, which features Duamed Colón of AgroTropical, a plantain and vegetable farmer using cover crops, contour farming, intercropping, and plant tissue culture technology to reduce the impacts of drought and increased temperatures on his farm in central Puerto Rico.

This new video entitled “Climate Resilient Agriculture: Plantains & Vegetables” demonstrates viable adaptive practices for building soil health and battling pests, both of which are critical in building resilience to climate change.  The Caribbean Hub, located at the International Institute of Tropical Forestry in Puerto Rico has prioritized listening and is working closely with agricultural advisers and producers to understand how climate change is affecting food production, and what tools and information farmers need to prepare for the future.

Since 2014, the Hub has tailored climate change science to the unique needs of tropical growers. Throughout his visit, Secretary Vilsack highlighted the potential of pursuing organic and value-added production methods in helping Caribbean producers compete in a global market.  He also stressed the importance of the Caribbean Hub as a nexus for information sharing and recognized the value of the Hub as a resource not only for the U.S. Caribbean, but for international partners in Latin America and the Caribbean, and to tropical agriculture and forestry around the world.

Caribbean Hub Contact: wgould@fs.fed.us and iparesramos@fs.fed.us

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