Recent drought conditions have generated rumblings of climate change among two activist groups, FoodDemocracyNow! and Forecast the Facts.
The two groups are currently leading a petition campaign asking Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to explain connections between climate change and the current drought.
The petition asks Vilsack to "[p]lease tell farmers and the American public about the connections between climate change and the current drought, as well as the massive implications that climate change has for the future of American farming."
The two groups have received 10,000 signatures on the petition, which was opened earlier this week.
According to a statement from Daniel Souwine, campaign director for Forecast the Future, the USDA contributed to a study explaining indicators of climate change in 2009.
"It's simply not credible for Vilsack to now claim he is unaware of the science, and it contradicts the USDA's mission of providing farmers with the scientific information they need to do their jobs," Souwine said.
Dave Murphy, executive director of FoodDemocracyNow!, said USDA has a responsibility to explain to farmers the relationship between drought and climate change.
"This won't be the last climate-related disaster of Secretary Vilsack's tenure, and he should show leadership by talking about the major implications that climate change has for our entire farming sector," he said.
Both groups say Vilsack has skirted questions about the relation of climate change to this year's drought, citing a July 18 press conference exchange between Vilsack and a CBS reporter:
Reporter: "Could you talk a little bit about the drought itself? Is it very unusual? Did anyone see it coming? Is it from climate change? Is there anything you can do to prepare?"
Vilsack: "I'm not a scientist so I'm not going to opine as to the cause of this. All we know is that right now there are a lot of farmers and ranchers who are struggling. And it's important and necessary for them to know, rather than trying to focus on what's causing this, what can we do to help them. And what we can do to help them is lower interest rates, expand access to grazing and haying opportunities, lower the penalties associated with that, and encourage Congress to help and work with us to provide additional assistance. And that's where our focus is."
The groups say they will be monitoring Vilsack's comments and will "use a host of online and offline tactics to ensure that Secretary Vilsack hears from farmers and other Americans who are looking to him for leadership on this important issue."