In response to a series of regional drought conferences, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is entering into a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Commerce, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to improve sharing of data and expertise, monitoring networks, and drought forecasting efforts. In recent months, USDA partnered with local governments, colleges, state and federal partners to conduct a series of regional drought workshops in Nebraska, Colorado, Arkansas and Ohio.
Speaking to the National Drought Forum in Washington on Thursday, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said that opening 2.8 million acres of Conservation Reserve Program land to emergency haying and grazing provided as much as $200 million in forage to producers facing feed shortages during the drought.
The Secretary also announced a pilot program administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Kansas and Colorado to remove sediment from ponds to restore their water holding to previous capacities and he announced that NRCS has made available over $16 million through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to farmers and ranchers for water conservation and wildlife habitat. Those funds are in addition to the over $27 million provided to farmers ranchers in 22 states for drought mitigation during fiscal year 2012.