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The Partnership Between The USDA and NASA Could Benefit Utah Farmers

U.S. Department of Commerce
The partnering of the USDA and NASA may help farmers in Utah better deal with drought conditions.

A partnership involving the U.S. Department of Agriculture and NASA could benefit farmers in Utah and elsewhere as the nation adjusts to the impact of climate change. Krysta Harden is the deputy secretary for the USDA and said the agreement will expand cooperation on space-borne remote sensing efforts to gather data to develop soil moisture maps that can help farmers in the drought-ravaged Southwest.

"We know that the climate is changing and we have to adapt, we have to mitigate," Harden said. "We want to give our producers all those tools to make sure they know as well in advance who is going to be impacted and when, so we can farm and ranch differently if we need to in certain parts of the country."

Harden said the NASA satellite images will also help Forest Service fire fighters and first- responders better detect wildfires and predict their behavior.

Craig Gardner is a farmer near Honeyville, Utah. He said knowing moisture levels could prove enormously helpful to farmers who continue to produce the nation's food supply through a historic drought.

"If we can find out how far down the moisture is in the ground," Gardner said. "For instance, when we're planting, if we know where the moisture is, we can plant a little deeper so that the crops will come up, or we plant shallower if we know the moisture is higher, so if we don't have extra water then we don't worry as much, but if we don't have the water then we got to use every device we can to try and give us help."

According to the federal government's National Climate Assessment, as temperatures continue to rise, droughts in the Southwest will be longer, prompting even dryer conditions.