Sara Hessenflow Harper
Sara is the Director of Sustainability & Supply-Chain Solutions for Vela Environmental, a division of Kennedy and Coe, LLC where she leads the firm's Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) On-Demand Services. This blog explores the topic of agricultural sustainability. Follow Sara on Twitter: @SustainAg. Views expressed are solely those of Sara Harper.
Key Sustainability Issue: Managing Drought
May 15, 2014
Unfortunately, there is not an easy smartphone app to end a drought. Wouldn't that be nice! As California wildfires continue and much of the country's productive land faces continuing drought projections, I thought I would share some really helpful resources I've run across in hopes that these tools can at least help farmers plan, prepare and better manage this expanding menace.
The resource links in this post are coming from a very helpful and intersting website: www.drought.gov
First up is a pretty amazing drought map viewer from the The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). The current map is pretty scary and has been the subject of a number of tweets today.
To keep track of what drought is doing and where it is projected to go in the short term, you can check out the site's weekly drought update. Then if you'd like to look at the seasonal forecast, you can do that too. Then there is a page that lets you visualize the historic drought data for specific locations, called the drought risk atlas.
The site also has a helpful page that focuses specifically on the impacts to agriculture - showing the percentage of land in all the states that is rated in poor to very poor condition for grazing, for example. This page links you to agricultural producer organizations that report on drought issues in their areas with the help of crop watchers.
There are helpful pages that provide information about planning and mitigation as well as drought recovery and how agricultural producers can connect with disaster assistance as well as linking to USDA websites on the same topic.
So, how does this topic fit into the "sustainability" topic? Drought is a major impact that is projected to get worse with climate change. Many food companies and grocery stores know this and are actively planning for how the manage the added volatility in prices that comes along with severe droughts -- and droughts moving into areas that were previously not prone. Websites like this one from EPA's climate impact and adaptation section along with more detailed private analysis are being used to map out and think through future sourcing and processing plant siting decisions.
If the people you sell to are looking at drought this way, maybe it makes sense to take a closer look at the projections for your area and think through what options might be worth pursuing for adapting to more drought (if that is the projection for you). That is just one of the things I am working on with clients -- so that they have more time to deal with difficult decisions.
In the meantime, I'll keep saying my prayers for rain!
Follow Sara on Twitter: @SustainAg