Lawmakers urged to improve drought, conservation programs

By Jennifer Yachnin | 06/27/2024 06:13 AM EDT

At a Senate field hearing in Colorado, state and local officials pressed lawmakers for more flexibility at the federal level.

Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.).

Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) during a field hearing Wednesday on drought. Senate Agriculture Committee

Numerous federal programs designed to respond to the impacts of drought need to be updated to better address aridification across the Midwest and western U.S., state officials told a Senate panel Wednesday.

A field hearing of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Climate, Forestry and Natural Resources in Burlington, Colorado, included testimony from over a dozen state officials, farming advocates and climatologists. It was a wide-ranging discussion about how to improve federal drought mitigation and conservation programs.

Among the potential changes, Kate Greenberg, Colorado’s commissioner of Agriculture, pointed to a popular Agriculture Department program that funded 81 projects at a cost of more than $1 billion nationwide in 2023.


“What we face now is aridification due to climate change,” Greenberg said. “Conservation, drought and disaster relief programs must reflect this reality. Federal programs need to be flexible to allow for innovation at the state, local and producer levels.”