U.S. Senator to USDA: Improve Drought Monitor


U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) is calling on USDA to improve the accuracy of the drought monitor it uses to measure drought severity.

USDA currently combines various water data, including reservoir levels, streamflows, soil moisture, and precipitation to monitor drought levels throughout the United States.

In a letter to USDA today, Tester noted that dryland farmers and ranchers rely solely on precipitation for water, making streamflow and reservoir levels inconsequential to the effects a farmer or rancher may be experiencing from drought.

“A drought monitor that places significant weight on streamflows and reservoirs will produce a misleading and inaccurate picture of the drought impacts [dryland] producers currently suffer,” Tester wrote to USDA Secretary Vilsack today.

Accuracy of the drought monitor is important for farmers and ranchers because the Agriculture Secretary uses the drought monitor to designate counties as agriculture disaster areas.  The drought monitor also can determine producers’ eligibility for USDA disaster programs, including emergency haying and grazing of CRP land and the livestock forage disaster program.

Many of those disaster programs expired last September.  The Farm Bill that passed the Senate in June reauthorized the livestock disaster programs.  But the House of Representatives this week rejected calls to consider the Farm Bill before leaving for the August recess, leaving the critical provisions expired.  Tester, along with Senator Max Baucus, introduced a bill to extend the livestock disaster provisions as well as the SURE program, which would aid drought-stricken crop producers.

Source: U.S. Senator Jon Tester

Posted by Russell Nemetz

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