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Last Year’s Federal Western Drought Provisions Yet To Go Into Effect

Ryan Heinsius

The 2018 federal Farm Bill included several provisions to lessen the effects of persistent drought in the West, but they still haven’t gone into effect. Now, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators is urging the Secretary of Agriculture to put them into practice. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

President Trump signed the Farm Billinto law last December. It contained funding for voluntary water conservation efforts among farmers, ranchers and others. The law expands federal assistance for drought and flood mitigation and watershed improvement. It also funds upgrades to some irrigation systems where large amounts of water are lost as its pumped to fields. But none of it has been enacted.

The letter was signed by several western senators including Arizona Republican Martha McSally, as well as Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

"We’re really concerned about the continuing drought that Arizona has been experiencing as we know for going on two decades … We are an arid climate and we receive less precipitation than, well, any other state in the country … so we have to deal with drought differently than other states," Sinema says.

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture says the 2018 Farm Bill was signed after the start of the USDA’s fiscal year, when existing programs were already underway. The agency also says it’s working on implementing the drought provisions and continuing other on-farm water conservation measures.   

According to the senators, drought is the largest single cause of production losses on U.S. farms, and accounts for almost half of all crop insurance payments averaging $4 billion a year.

Ryan Heinsius was named interim news director and managing editor in January 2024. He joined KNAU's newsroom as an executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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