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Senators Introduce Bill to Reauthorize Critical Drought Information Program

Bipartisan Group Works to Protect Farmers, Ranchers

WASHINGTON D.C. - U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) joined Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR), Jerry Moran (R-KS), John Thune (R-SD) and Mark Udall (D-CO) today to introduce legislation that would reauthorize the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), which provides vital drought information to farmers, ranchers, and other industries affected by weather conditions. The NIDIS program is a function of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Since the NIDIS Act was signed into law, government agencies have worked to develop a long-term plan for drought prevention, research, and education.  The Drought Information Act would extend this program for five years and support an interactive “early warning system” of timely and accurate drought information, as well an integrated weather monitoring and forecasting system. By increasing coordination with the USDA and private sector, this bill would also enhance the agriculture industry’s involvement in the program.

“With New Mexico in the midst of a historic drought, our farmers and ranchers need the best up-to-date information about current and future conditions in the state," said Senator Tom Udall. "USDA drought assistance is an economic backstop for our rural communities, and that assistance is triggered by the drought declarations under this important system. What we need most is rain and snowpack, but this information is crucial to the success of all agricultural producers regardless of the weather.”

“Farmers and ranchers need timely information about droughts so they can take the necessary precautions to protect their crops and livestock,” Senator Pryor said. “That’s why I was proud to join my colleagues on this bipartisan bill that will provide Arkansas agricultural producers with the tools and resources they need to prevent economic losses.”

“The United States continues to be in the throes of the worst drought in nearly 70 years, and timely drought information is a vital resource,” Senator Moran said. “All drought response and disaster declarations are based on the drought monitor, which is part of the NIDIS. Preserving these programs gives farmers and ranchers the best chance as they face the biggest asset and challenge in agriculture – Mother Nature.”           

“Droughts create tremendous uncertainty and financial losses for farmers and ranchers and they need tools like NIDIS,” said Senator Thune. “NIDIS is critically important as it provides agricultural producers with timely drought forecast and monitoring information which can help them better prepare for a drought. As a member of the Agriculture Committee and the Ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee that has jurisdiction over this program, I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move this important legislation through Congress.”

"The effects of climate change and the severe ongoing drought are readily apparent in Colorado, where we have experienced lower crop yields, increased fire hazards and the lack of snowpack in the high country.  Improving our ability to forecast droughts will help farmers, ranchers and everyone who relies on water to better prepare for droughts’ devastating effects.  That is why I support the bipartisan effort to reauthorize the National Integrated Drought Information System," Senator Mark Udall said.  "The National Integrated Drought Information System also is currently based in Boulder, taking advantage of Colorado’s highly skilled workforce and supporting job creation in the area."

In 2012, the U.S. was hit by one of the worst droughts in half a century. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly 65% of the contiguous U.S. suffered from moderate drought.

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