A coalition of agricultural organizations highlighted the need for effective deployment of drought response funding. In a letter addressed to U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton, the coalition details the ominous water conditions in the Western U.S. The groups expressed appreciation for the $4 billion that has been allocated for drought response in the Inflation Reduction Act but emphasized the need for swift and decisive action.
“Dire challenges are being faced by agricultural water users in the Colorado River Basin, California’s Central Valley, the Klamath Basin, the Columbia River Basin and its tributaries in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, the Rogue River Basin in southern Oregon, and the Great Basin,” the letter states. “We could dedicate reams of pages describing the agonizing plight faced by the farmers and ranchers and the rural communities in these areas.”
Signatories of the letter include Western Growers, Family Farm Alliance, and the farm bureaus of California, Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon. The groups encourage the release of a Notice of Funding Availability with guidance for water managers working on drought response proposals to ensure funding is first deployed in areas of critical need. In the letter, the coalition also highlights the need for coordination between the Bureau of Reclamation and local water managers to continue the development of voluntary action. Other areas of focus for the ag groups include the proper consideration be given to the loss of production related to reduced water use. The group points out that actions that could result in permanent disruptions to the overall ability to produce food should be avoided whenever possible.
The coalition of agricultural groups offered their support and assistance in the effort to address the ongoing drought conditions. While immediate needs are identified in the letter, the farm groups also detail long-term activities that can be supported through the drought response funding. Increased conservation and efficiency measures, forest restoration, along with groundwater development and recycling will all play a critical role in addressing future water needs.