2021 Climate Adaptation & Action Plan - U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Posted on: 12/20/2021 - Updated on: 12/21/2021

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On January 27, 2021, in Executive Order (E.O.) 14008 Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, President Biden laid out a vision for a United States government-wide approach and a set of coordinated domestic actions to address the risks and opportunities posed by climate change. One of these actions directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to submit an action plan of steps to bolster adaptation and increase resilience to the impacts of climate change across our mission and operations.

Climate change poses a significant risk to agriculture, forests, and grasslands across the United States and the communities that support and depend upon them. This risk is disproportionately high for disadvantaged communities, including Tribal nations, low-income, and minority communities. USDA is unique among federal departments in the breadth of its Mission Areas and its reach across the United States to urban, rural, and Tribal communities. Steps to reduce the vulnerability and increase the adaptive capacity of American farmers, ranchers, forest owners, and other stakeholders to climate change are needed to maintain competitiveness and sustainability in the coming decades. Through climate change adaptation planning, USDA will increase the resilience of these sectors and communities to climate change.

Agricultural producers and forest landowners have extensive experience dealing with uncertain conditions, yet climate change is producing new challenges. Adaptation actions by USDA and our stakeholders can reduce the impacts of climate change while creating opportunities or co-benefits for mitigation, sustainable production, and conservation. The co-benefits of adaptation actions may also stretch as far as the social welfare of rural and urban communities by improving economic opportunities, infrastructure, and equity. The research and development necessary to support agricultural and forestry climate adaptation have the potential to spur new tools, practices, and technologies that may underpin the future of these sectors.

USDA last undertook extensive climate adaptation planning in 2014 in response to E.O. 13653 Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change. In that plan, USDA laid out a vision for how to integrate consideration of climate change into agency operations and overall mission objectives in the context of USDA’s strategic goals. USDA provided progress and strategic updates to its climate adaptation planning via USDA’s annual Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan, most recently in 2017.

FY 2021 is a transition year for USDA as its leadership develops a 2022-2026 USDA Strategic Plan, to align with the Biden-Harris Administration’s priorities, which include addressing climate change. At the same time, USDA is tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) for the 2018-2022 Strategic Plan. A draft of the new goals was provided to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in June 2021. From June to September 2021, a cross-departmental working group will establish KPIs to gauge progress towards specific performance goals that are in alignment with the new strategic plan. A full draft strategic plan will be provided to OMB in September 2021. USDA’s 2021 Annual Performance Report and 2023 Annual Performance Plan, due to OMB in November 2021, will close the 2018-2022 performance cycle’s KPIs and, where possible, reflect the new draft KPIs. Finally, for FY 2021, USDA’s Risk Profile will be updated to incorporate risks and risk mitigation strategies that reflect the Biden-Harris Administration’s priorities, like climate change, where possible.

The complete package of this USDA Action Plan for Climate Adaptation and Resilience includes:

  • This Action Plan for Climate Adaptation and Resilience that builds on prior adaptation plans
  • An update to USDA Departmental Regulation 1070-001 USDA Policy Statement on Climate Change Adaptation
  • Identification of the Director of the Office of Energy and Environmental Policy (OEEP) in the Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) as the senior agency official responsible for carrying out the climate adaptation activities described in this Plan

This Plan, which aligns with guidance from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), includes:

  • Five vulnerabilities due to climate change that USDA has identified and must address
  • Five actions USDA will implement in its mission, programs, operations, and management in anticipation of and in response to a changing climate
  • A description of efforts to enhance the climate literacy of USDA’s workforce
  • Descriptions of how climate adaptation and preparedness is built into management and decision-points for USDA climate-ready sites, facilities, products, and services


Action Plan for Climate Adaptation and Resilience. Aug 2021. U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://www.sustainability.gov/pdfs/usda-2021-cap.pdf

Affiliated Organizations

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) works to support the American agricultural economy to strengthen rural communities; to protect and conserve our natural resources; and to provide a safe, sufficient, and nutritious food supply for the American people. The Department’s wide range of programs and responsibilities touches the lives of every American every day. This factsheet provides information about some of our agencies and offices, their missions, responsibilities, and services they provide.

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