UD in DC
Senator hosts UD representatives at sessions on environment, rural communities
10:19 a.m., May 9, 2013--Representatives of the University of Delaware were in Washington, D.C., recently to provide expertise during separate sessions on the ocean and on rural communities.
More than 200 rural development advocates attended a half-day summit April 25 on issues of importance to rural communities across the nation, and they included Mark Rieger, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), Michelle Rodgers, Cooperative Extension director, and Melanie Allen, a UD student.
The career connection
The previous day, a UD oceanography professor joined the conversation in Washington about the changing ocean environment and highlighted the significance of tidal wetlands in Delaware.
Chris Sommerfield, associate professor of oceanography in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, met with senators at an April 24 roundtable discussion on ideas for addressing ocean issues such as ocean acidification, rising sea levels and extreme weather.
Sommerfield discussed the critical role marshes play in protecting communities against storms, filtering pollutants from waterways, providing recreational benefits and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere in Delaware and coastal states. He is an expert in geological oceanography, marsh dynamics and human impacts on coastal systems.
“Tidal marshlands are at the leading edge of sea level rise, and are our first line of defense against coastal flooding and inundation,” Sommerfield said.
The meeting was hosted by the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee and featured eight leaders from the private sector, government and educational institutions. U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Oceans Caucus, also participated.
The roundtable highlighted the economic impacts facing local industries and communities and discussed infrastructure and other measures needed to monitor, mitigate and adapt to these changing conditions. Issues discussed during the meeting included the impacts of Superstorm Sandy and the likelihood of similar extreme storms damaging coastal communities, as well as the importance of protecting coral reefs from increasing ocean temperatures and acidification.
“Changes to our world’s climate are having adverse effects on our oceans and coastal communities,” Coons said. “Water is rising across our seaboard. In Delaware, the state with the lowest mean elevation of any state in the United States, makes it susceptible to sea level rise and erosion of land. We must come together across all sectors to reverse this damage and prevent further destruction to our planet. I thank Dr. Sommerfield for joining us today and sharing his research on sedimentary processes of our estuaries, coasts and oceans.”
The discussion followed a floor speech Coons gave the previous week calling for action to address the adverse effects of climate change in Delaware and around the country.
Coons, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, also joined the UD representatives from CANR at the summit on issues of importance to rural communities.
The event was hosted by the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee and featured two moderated panels focused on rural economics, infrastructure, and access to critical services.
The panel highlighted the economic conditions facing rural communities and the agriculture industry, and what role the federal government can play in ensuring long-term support for the communities. Issues discussed during the summit include the importance of investing in the health of farmland, natural resources, and infrastructure. Another topic of discussion was connecting farmers and ranchers with consumers, including individuals, schools, hospitals, and businesses.
"It is clear to me that Sen. Coons and his colleagues understand the importance of agricultural and natural resource issues to the rural economy, and that they will advocate for appropriate reforms to the pending farm bill that will sustain rural livelihoods," said Rieger, adding, "Under the new definition of ‘rural,’ all Delawareans need to understand that the vast majority of us are rural dwellers and thus part of the rural economy."
“Our rural communities are central to our identity, our economy, and our values,” Coons said. “Between our agriculture sector, environmental conservation and tourism, it’s no surprise that Delaware’s rural communities are thriving. It’s important that we continue to facilitate an open dialogue between our rural communities and our elected officials to ensure we aren’t hindering their growth and development. I thank the members of the University of Delaware for attending today’s event and sharing their views on how we can strengthen our state’s rural areas.”