WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2014 – USDA needs to develop and provide information to farmers on the economic costs and returns of taking certain actions in response to climate change, the Government Accountability Office said.
The GAO report also said USDA needs to develop performance measures that better reflect the breadth of USDA climate-change efforts and use its performance plans and reports to provide information on how the agency plans to achieve its goals and the status of its efforts.
“Helping to make farmers more resilient to climate change is one of USDA's four strategic goals, but the agency is not using its performance planning and reporting process to provide information on how it intends to accomplish this goal or to assess the status of its efforts in this area,” GAO said in the report, which was requested by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
GAO noted that USDA’s climate-change priorities for agriculture include, among other things, providing better information to farmers on future climate conditions. These priorities generally align with national priorities set by the Administration, which include promoting actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, advancing climate science, developing tools for decision makers, and developing better projections of future climate conditions.
GAO pointed out that under a 1993 law, the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, an agency's performance plan is supposed to explain how the agency will accomplish its performance goals, and its performance reports are supposed to review the extent to which those goals have been met.
“Without developing performance plans and reports that better reflect USDA's climate change efforts, USDA will have difficulty fully assessing its progress in meeting its climate change strategic goal and providing information on its progress to Congress and the public.”
The report notes that the U.S. in 2012 produced about $395 billion in agricultural commodities, about half from crop sales and half from livestock and that the Third National Climate Assessment found that climate change has the potential to negatively affect agricultural productivity through warmer temperatures and an increase in weather extremes.
GAO said USDA concurs with the recommendations in the report.
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