President Obama on Thursday approved the reauthorization of the National Integrated Drought Information System, which provides drought-related information to farmers and ranchers, as well as other industries affected by drought conditions.
The President's approval reauthorizes the NIDIS through FY 2018 and requires the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to report to Congress on the implementation of the NIDIS.
The NIDIS supports an interactive "early warning system" of timely and accurate drought information, as well as an integrated weather monitoring and forecasting system. The early warnings allow municipalities and farmers to make informed decisions about water use, crop planting, wildfire response, and other critical areas.
"As climate change increases the intensity of weather-related disasters such as droughts, wildfires, storms and floods, providing access to updated drought-related science and tools is growing even more important," President Obama noted in a statement Thursday.
U.S. Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., Tom Udall, D-N.M., Mark Pryor, D-Ark. and Mark Udall, D-Colo., proposed the reauthorization last week with bipartisan support. Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, introduced the bill in the House.
"Droughts create tremendous uncertainty and financial losses for farmers and ranchers who depend on tools like NIDIS," Thune commented in a statement last week. "As a member of the Agriculture Committee and the Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee that has jurisdiction over this program, I know the improvements we made to this program will provide better information to agriculture producers as well as businesses and local governments that experience the effects of drought conditions."
Government agencies have worked to develop a long-term plan for drought prevention, research and education since the NIDIS Act was signed into law in 2006, a statement from Sen. Thune's office said.
"Over the last two years more than half the country experienced some degree of drought conditions. That is why I am pleased the NIDIS reauthorization swiftly passed the House and Senate last month and that, in less than 30 days, the NIDIS reauthorization is now law," Hall said in a statement.
Currently, a number of Western states are facing drought conditions, including a severe drought in California. Several winter wheat growing areas are also facing moisture deficits.
To complement the National Integrated Drought Information System, the President highlighted actions by federal agencies in forming a National Drought Resilience Partnership to help communities better prepare for droughts in the long term, and prevent the worst impacts on families and businesses.
"I commend Congress for passing this bipartisan bill to continue to build our national resilience to drought and help communities, farmers, businesses and individuals better prepare and recover when disaster strikes," he added.
The NIDIS Reauthorization Act of 2013 is the companion bill to the Drought Information Act, which was introduced in February 2013.