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2016 Building Blocks Workshops: A Synthesis of Goals, Opportunities, and Next Steps

USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub (NPCH) offered two Building Blocks Workshops in March 2016. The workshops were organized in conjunction with a Climate and Agriculture Tools Workshop hosted by our partners at the High Plains Regional Climate Center, the National Integrated Drought Information System, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the American Association of State Climatologists. The purpose of the Building Blocks workshops was to engage with and share information among USDA family agencies, 1914 Cooperative Extension, and state climate office partners, and to identify needs and opportunities in the region that correspond with the Building Blocks. workshops focused on adaptive management practices for working lands that provide multiple economic and environmental benefits while also increasing resilience to extreme weather events. Click here to read the synthesis of the Building Blocks Workshops.

What Type of Agricultural Production is in the Northern Plains?

The Northern Plains region (Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Colorado) has a high diversity of land uses including the largest remaining tracts of native rangeland in North America, substantial areas of both dryland and irrigated cropland and pasture, mosaics of cropland and grassland, and forested lands.  Livestock production includes beef (cow-calf and yearling operations, feedlots), sheep, hogs, and dairy.  Crop production is dominated by corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, alfalfa, and hay, but also includes a diversity of other crops such as potatoes, sugar beets, dry beans, sunflowers, millet, canola, and barley.  Agroforestry includes windbreaks, silvopasture, riparian forest buffers, alley cropping, and forest farms. 

What is USDA Doing About It?

USDA has established the USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub (NPCH), located at the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Plains Area Office in Fort Collins, Colorado. Hub contacts are:

Dannele Peck, Director and Agricultural Economist, USDA ARS Rangeland Resources and Systems Research Unit, Phone: (970) 744-9043, email:

Justin Derner, Research Leader, Rangeland Resources and Systems Research Unit, USDA ARS, (307) 772-2433 x. 113, email:

Matt Reeves, Research Ecologist, Human Dimensions Research Program, USDA Forest Service (FS) Rocky Mountain Research Station, Missoula, MT

Rafael Guerrero, Director, Central National Technology Support Center, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Fort Worth, TX

Windy Kelley, Regional Extension Program Coordinator, University of Wyoming Extension, Pinedale, WY, email:

David Nix, USDA FSA Liaison, (303) 551-5481, email:

Hailey Wilmer, Climate Hub Fellow, Rangeland Scientist, USDA ARS Rangeland Resources and Systems Research Unit, Phone: (970) 492-7121, email:

The Hub will deliver science-based knowledge and practical information to farmers, ranchers, forest landowners that will help them to adapt to climate change and weather variability by coordinating with local and regional partners in Federal and state agencies, NGO’s, private companies, and Tribes. 

The Hub will provide:

·         Technical support for land managers to respond to drought, heat stress, floods, pests, and changes in growing season.

·         Assessments and regional forecasts for hazard and adaptation planning to provide more time to prepare.

·         Outreach and education for farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners on ways to mitigate risks and thrive despite change.

To learn more about the Northern Plains see the Factsheet here or to learn about Climate Vulnerabilities in the Northern Plains and Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies view the one-page vulnerability assessment here.