Romney and Bennet urge USDA to give West parity amid decades of drought

UTAH — Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) led 14 other senators in a letter that urged the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)to give parity to Western growers and communities that have experienced decades of drought conditions.

The letter, dated yesterday, was also signed by Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

“Utah and the American West is facing an historic drought, and our state’s farmers and ranchers are taking immediate action to be more water-conscious while still maintaining their livelihood,” Romney said in a press release. “It’s imperative that USDA programs—including funding—accurately recognize the important role of Utah’s farmers and ranchers in tackling the drought crisis. Ensuring that the West receives parity from the USDA will help bolster our states’ rural economies and support our producers as they implement these important changes.”

The letter urges the USDA to support water conservation and infrastructure projects, address understaffing issues in Western USDA field offices, and requests regular briefings from the USDA, NRCS, and FSA staff to discuss their steps taken to assist farmers and ranchers throughout the West facing severe drought.

The letter also asks that the $20 billion recently approved by congress for USDA agricultural conservation programs be spread evenly across the U.S.

“As you know, American farmers and ranchers manage over 895 million acres of ground in the United States, giving them a vital role in combating climate change risks while continuing to feed America,” said the letter. “Recently, Congress funded $20 billion for USDA agriculture conservation programs. We believe USDA should allocate these funds for agriculture conservation equally across the country to reflect the contribution of every region, including the West. It is also critical for USDA to coordinate with states, local and tribal governments, and other partners to further the reach of the agency to scale effective and resilient practices.

Read the full letter here.

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