Bennet, Romney lead Vilsack letter on western drought
|Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. and Mitt Romney, R-Utah, this week led a bipartisan coalition of 14 senators in a letter urging Agriculture Secretary Vilsack to give parity to the urgent priorities of Western growers and communities through existing authorities, new funding, and collaboration across government.|
“The American West is in crisis,” the senators said.“
Across the major basins of the American West — including the Colorado River Basin, the Rio Grande Basin, the Great Basin, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Basin, the Columbia River Basin, and the Arkansas-White-Red Basin — farm and ranch families hang in the balance as they grapple with a 22-year mega-drought. The acute shortage of water for Western growers threatens productive farmland across our states, which are both a pillar of our rural economies and drivers of America’s food production.”
The senators urged Vilsack to to support projects and practices for Western farmers and ranchers to conserve water, improve their water infrastructure and efficiency, protect highly-erodible lands plagued by drought, restore western range lands’ ability to retain water by reconnecting floodplains to incised streams, and offer technical assistance for growers in drought-stricken regions.They also urged Vilsack to address the understaffing of USDA field offices and prioritize hiring staff, particularly engineers with expertise in Western production agriculture and water conservation.