Tester leads bipartisan effort to establish drought task force

Senator calls on President to marshal all resources to combat drought effects

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is leading a bipartisan group of Senators in calling on the President to quickly establish a government-wide task force to help Montanans and Americans affected by this summer’s record drought.

Tester and his colleagues want the President to form an “Interagency Drought Task Force” that will bring together agencies related to agriculture, public lands, energy, and other related fields.  The panel will assess the drought’s effects and recommend the best ways to help Americans recover.

More than one-half of the nation’s counties are now listed as primary disaster areas.  According to USDA, 62 percent of America’s farms are experiencing drought.

“We urge you to direct the task force to report as soon as possible on the severity of the drought, the impacts and expected impacts to the economy, the options available to address drought under current law, and fiscally responsible recommendations for Congressional action to further assist those impacted by drought,” Tester wrote the President.

A lack of rainfall along with high temperatures has led to drought conditions in nearly every region of the country.  The drought continues to intensify across much of the Midwest and West, with USDA’s Drought Monitor this week increasing the percentage of Montana experiencing abnormally dry conditions or significant drought to nearly 75 percent.

Tester noted that in addition to forcing agriculture producers to make difficult decisions about their crops and livestock, the drought is causing extreme wildfires and impacting water availability and quality nationwide.

Fellow Montana Senator Max Baucus also signed Tester’s letter.

Tester is not waiting for his task force to be established to take action.  Earlier today he announced additional CRP land will be opened for haying and grazing for farmers and ranchers.  He also recently cut through red tape to speed up resources for producers impacted by drought and pushed USDA to improve the accuracy of the Drought Monitor.

Tester’s bipartisan letter to the President is available online HERE.