by Tim Carpenter
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas said federal lawmakers must include in the new Farm Bill investments in water programs to address climate change fueling periods of more frequent, severe, and prolonged drought.
Moran, a Republican, joined a bipartisan group of senators asking colleagues on the Senate Agriculture Committee to fight for aid reflecting damage to crop and livestock production in Kansas and other states tied to disruption of natural wet and dry periods.
“Severe, long-term drought is devastating these rural areas,” the senators said in a statement. “These negative effects reverberate through the community, affecting not just individual producers, but the broader local economy and food system.”
In all, seventeen senators signed a letter requesting Farm Bill reforms related to drought. U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, didn’t sign the document.
The U.S. Senate and U.S. House are working on components of a Farm Bill typically rewritten every five years. In 2023, Congress extended the previous Farm Bill for one year. The legislation would authorize hundreds of billions of dollars in funding to food aid, crop insurance and related programs.
In the letter, senators representing Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska agreed drought remained a severe risk for farmers and ranchers as water resources dwindled, especially in states west of the 100th Meridian. The vertical line marking boundary of the Great Plains cuts through central Kansas from Texas in the south to North Dakota to the north.
Western states have experienced some of the driest conditions on record and the Southwest of the United States endured unprecedented drought since 2000, the letter said. Drought conditions eased in some states last year, the senators said, but that shouldn’t lead to complacency in terms of building the drought safety net.
“A changing climate has further altered the natural pattern of droughts, making them more frequent, longer and more severe,” the letter signed by Moran said. “These conditions have altered the landscape and have had a lasting effect on all those who rely on the land.
Moran along with U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska and U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, both Colorado Democrats, requested Farm Bill investments that supported water conservation, improved watershed planning, upgraded water infrastructure and protected land from erosion.
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