The Obama Administration on Friday released plans for a new interagency governmental partnership that is intended to help communities prepare for future droughts.
The National Drought Resilience Partnership is a response to requests from communities, businesses, and farmers and ranchers. USDA says the partnership will make it easier to access Federal drought resources and will help link information such as monitoring, forecasts, outlooks, and early warnings with longer-term drought resilience strategies in critical sectors such as agriculture, municipal water systems, energy, recreation, tourism and manufacturing.
In its first year, USDA said the partnership will:
-focus on creating a new, web-based portal to ease access to Federal agency drought recovery resources;
-host more frequent regional drought outlook forums that provide access to experts and locally relevant information;
-support the coordination of a national soil moisture monitoring network to help improve monitoring and forecasting drought conditions;
-and identify a single point of contact for the public.
The partnership will also undertake a pilot project in a western area hard hit by drought to create a local-scale drought resilience plan that could be applied in other areas, USDA said.
"Last year, the worst drought in generations devastated farms and ranches across the nation," explained USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. "But our work isn't done and we can always better prepare for the future."
Vilsack said the partnership will help rural residents, farmers, ranchers and business owners prepare for drought events like last year's.
Leaders of collaborating agencies underscored the offerings of the program.
Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Acting Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the partnership builds upon NOAA's climate programs and products. Recent updates to drought monitoring, she said, will help communities plan for drought events.
Other partners in the partnership include the Department of the Interior, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Spearheaded by USDA and NOAA, members of the National Drought Resilience Partnership will coordinate the delivery of Federal Government policies, programs, information and tools designed to help communities plan for and respond to drought.
About two-thirds of the continental United States was affected by drought in 2012, impacting water supply, tourism, transportation, and near shore fisheries, with an estimated $30 billion in losses to the agriculture sector alone, and an additional $1 billion in losses from wildfires, USDA said.
For more information on drought and the National Drought Resilience Partnership, please visit www.drought.gov.