The historic megadrought that has plagued the Colorado River Basin has left farmers and ranchers facing numerous challenges. Recognizing the need to address this crisis, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack met with leaders of the state Departments of Agriculture for the seven states in the basin to discuss the situation and the resources available to mitigate its impact on rural and agricultural communities.
During the meeting, Secretary Vilsack highlighted the Biden-Harris Administration’s investments in the seven states and USDA resources and programs available to mitigate the impact of natural disasters exacerbated by climate change, such as flooding and droughts, on agricultural and rural communities. He also mentioned the USDA’s Drought Recovery and Mitigation Efforts throughout the Colorado River Basin and the Western Water Framework for Conservation Action, a comprehensive, multi-state strategy under USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to address critical water and land management challenges across 17 Western States.
As part of this commitment, Secretary Vilsack recently announced a $25 million investment in three new priority areas and 37 existing priority areas in the West. The investment is a collaboration between NRCS and the Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART Initiative to help farmers and ranchers conserve water and build community drought resilience.
The USDA’s ten regional Climate Hubs have also been working to provide science-based, region-specific information and technologies that enable climate-informed decision-making to be agricultural and natural resource managers. For example, during times of drought, the Hubs work closely with their regional partners to ensure the latest information, resources, and tools are shared with stakeholders and land managers so that they can mitigate the acute and chronic effects of drought on their land.
Producers in the seven basin states have received over $1.8 billion in Federal crop insurance indemnity payments due to drought and drought-related impacts, and USDA has provided nearly $680 million in Emergency Relief Program (ERP) funding for producers impacted by natural disasters, including drought, in 2020 and 2021. The USDA’s Farm Service Agency and Risk Management Agency are also working to implement an additional $3.7 billion in disaster relief for 2022 disasters, which includes drought impacts.
The meeting between Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the state Departments of Agriculture leaders for the seven Colorado River Basin states demonstrates the government’s commitment to addressing the challenges faced by farmers and ranchers in the region. By investing in conservation programs, providing science-based information and resources, and offering disaster relief and recovery support, the USDA is helping farmers and ranchers to conserve water, build drought resilience, and mitigate the impact of natural disasters on their land and communities.
Image provided by USDA