Senators Emphasize Western Drought and Conservation

On Wednesday, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley urged
the United States Department of Agriculture to give parity to the priorities of
growers and communities in Oregon and the west through existing authorities,
new funding, and collaboration across government.

In a letter to the USDA, the senators said, “The American
West is in crisis. Across the major basins of the American West – including the
Colorado River Basin, the Rio Grande Basin, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River
Basin, the Columbia River Basin and the Arkansas-White-Red Basin – farms and
families hang in the balance as they grapple with a 22-year mega drought”. The
lawmakers said the acute shortage of water for western growers threatens
productive farmland in the states they represent, which are “…both a pillar of
our rural economies and drivers of America’s food production”.

A release said in the letter, the senators urge the USDA to
support western farmers and ranchers to conserve water, improve water
infrastructure and efficiency, protect lands at risk of erosion, and provide
technical assistance for growers in regions affected by drought. The group also
urged the USDA to better extend resources and develop tailored solutions
through its existing programs to help western growers address dire drought

The letter was led by Senators Michael Bennet of Colorado
and Mitt Romney of Utah. Along with Wyden and Merkley, it was co-signed by
eleven other senators, representing both political parties.