Wyden, Merkley Seek Updated Science Measurements for Oregon Farmers and Ranchers Needing Drought Aid

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today urged federal officials to use more accurate, timely, and science-based measurements in determining whether Oregon farmers and ranchers have access to drought disaster aid programs.

The Oregon senators wrote Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue that the U.S. Drought Monitor’s measurement criteria and process for Farm Service Agency (FSA) disaster programs are unfairly treating Oregonians battling wildfires and water shortages created by prolonged hot, dry weather. Wyden and Merkley cited as examples of outdated measurements those that only rely on precipitation and lean heavily on reservoir storage and capacity.

“Our constituents are concerned that this is a narrow view of drought for the western US and omits important potential indicators,” they wrote.

The senators urged the use of newer and better drought metrics that include temperature, “snow drought” or reduced winter mountain snowpack, shutoffs to senior water rights, increased irrigation demand due to extreme temperatures, soil moisture levels, lack of livestock water in pastures, ecological stress on forests, wildfire activity and danger, and streamflows. 

“When disaster program access depends on the drought monitor level, and the livelihoods of our rural ranchers and farmers are at stake, it is imperative the ratings are accurate, timely, and based on updated science,” Wyden and Merkley wrote.

A copy of the letter is here.

A web version of this release is available here.