Impacts of Climate Change and Land Use  on the Southwestern United States

Drought and Ranching in Arizona: A Case of Vulnerability

Domenici Press Release


June 24, 1996

DOMENICI: USDA INACTION ON DROUGHT IS UNACCEPTABLE

Senator Asks President to Break White House
Logjam on Drought Assistance

WASHINGTON -- Senator Pete Domenici today asked the President to break a logjam in the White House to an initiative to provide direct relief for victims of the continuing drought in the Southwest.

Domenici told the President that he has learned that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has submitted a drought aid plan to the White House Office of Management and Budget more than 10 days ago and has not received approval to move forward.

"As you most certainly witnessed during your recent trip to New Mexico, the drought has had a devastating impact on the agricultural production in Southwest, and I would appreciate your assurance that any problems in clearing this proposal through the White House will be resolved immediately," Domenici said in a letter to the President.

"I fully expect that Secretary Glickman's proposal will provide desperately needed relief to the livestock producers of New Mexico and the Southwest," Domenici said.

Domenici was informed that the proposal had been submitted when he made a call to Agriculture Secretary Glickman to inquire why the USDA has failed to move on real efforts to directly assist the drought-stricken livestock producers, particularly in terms of releasing more than 45 million bushels of feed grain held in emergency reserve. The call was made to accompany a letter Domenici sent to Glickman.

In his letter to Glickman, Domenici reminded Glickman of a number of problems facing producers due to the drought, saying that producers in New Mexico and in the Southwest have been forced to liquidate significant portions of their herds in order to prevent long-term damage to the forage resources.

"The Department has failed to provide any practical relief to those livestock producers who operate on federal land. This is of particular concern in New Mexico where the announced extension of the Emergency Livestock Feed Program is of benefit to producers in only three of 33 counties," Domenici said.

"This has had a devastating effect on not only the producers themselves, but on the rural economies of the area as well," Domenici said.

Domenici asked Glickman to answer a series of questions regarding the Department's failure to carry out acts that would assist drought-stricken producers:

An additional concern involves regulatory requirements of the Federal Crop Insurance Program. Dryland cotton producers have been provided with some planting flexibility, but producers of other crops continue to operate under an unreasonable regulatory system that requires farmers to plant a crop when there is little or no chance of it ever being harvested.

Domenici said that he has received reports from producers that Farm Services Agency personnel are not receiving adequate information on policy announcements.

"Frankly, I find it unacceptable for agency personnel to be forced to rely on news releases as their primary source of information related to policy adjustments. In emergency situations, such as the drought in the Southwest, there must be expedited procedures for disseminating official program information to field personnel who are responsible for delivering assistance to those who qualify," Domenici said.

Congress has passed a number of resolutions sponsored by Domenici and others to help assist the producers, including those that urge the Secretary to release feed grains currently held by the USDA in emergency reserves.


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