Thune Urges USDA Secretary to prioritize improvements to U.S. drought monitor during Farm Bill implementation

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a longtime member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today wrote to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue to encourage him to prioritize several Thune-authored provisions of the 2018 farm bill that relate to improving the accuracy of the Drought Monitor. These provisions of the new law were first introduced in May 2018 as part of Thune’s Improved Soil Moisture and Precipitation Monitoring Act of 2018, which provides tools and direction to USDA to help improve the accuracy of the Drought Monitor and requires the coordination of USDA agencies that use precipitation data to determine livestock grazing loss assistance and stocking rates. Thune drafted and introduced this legislation after hearing directly from several concerned ranchers at a 2018 agriculture roundtable event in South Dakota.

“During the lengthy 2017 drought that plagued Western South Dakota, I heard from a number of producers that were concerned with the accuracy of the Drought Monitor, especially given its use in determining grazing disaster assistance through programs administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) … As you continue working on farm bill implementation, I request that you prioritize the aforementioned provisions in the applicable mission area, especially as we approach the summer months when accuracy of the Drought Monitor will be critical for producers,” wrote Thune.

Thune also called for USDA to coordinate efforts among its agencies to ensure the annual establishment of grazing carrying capacities on U.S. Forest Service land is more consistent with assistance offered under other USDA grazing loss assistance programs.

–Senator Thune