WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, issued the following statement after the Senate unanimously approved his legislation (S. 2200) to reauthorize the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), which provides vital drought information to farmers, ranchers, and other industries affected by severe weather conditions. This legislation would encourage important partnerships with the private sector, integrate seasonal and subseasonal drought and water forecasts, improve the use of citizen-science, and support ongoing soil moisture monitoring to better aid farmers. The bill now heads to the House, which is expected to consider it before the end of the year, and, if approved, it would go to the president for his signature.
“I introduced this bill a little over a year ago as South Dakota farmers and ranchers were recovering from a significantly dry year, which resulted in drought conditions that affected large areas of the state,” said Thune. “It was a good reminder that Congress must do everything it can to update and modernize drought tools like NIDIS, which our farmers and ranchers depend on to stay up-to-date and fully informed on drought conditions in their area. I’m glad my Senate colleagues also recognized the importance of passing this legislation and that the president will hopefully sign this bill into law before the end of the year.”
NIDIS was established by Congress in 2006 with an interagency mandate to coordinate and integrate drought research and create a national drought early warning system. The early warning system utilizes new and existing partner networks to optimize the expertise of a wide range of federal, tribal, state, local, and academic partners in order to make climate and drought science readily available, easily understandable, and usable for decision makers. It would also improve the capacity of stakeholders to better monitor, forecast, plan for, and cope with the impacts of a drought. The NIDIS program is a function of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, of which the Commerce Committee has jurisdiction.
Earlier this month, Congress approved provisions of another Thune bill (S. 2936) that would provide tools and direction to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help improve the accuracy of the U.S. Drought Monitor and require the coordination of USDA agencies that use precipitation data to determine livestock grazing loss assistance and stocking rates. These provisions, as part of the larger farm bill, will be signed into law on Thursday, December 20.