Western State Governors Push Biden Admin to Declare Federal Drought Disaster

By The Center Square
The Center Square
The Center Square
The Center Square was launched in May 2019 to fulfill the need for high-quality statehouse and statewide news across the United States. The focus of our work is state- and local-level government and economic reporting. www.thecentersquare.com
August 17, 2021 Updated: August 17, 2021

Several Western state governors sent a letter on Sunday to President Joe Biden’s administration requesting he declare a federal drought disaster.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) drought disaster declaration would shore up additional funding in the states currently experiencing severe drought conditions.

The letter was signed by the governors of Utah, Oregon, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Washington.

“We continue to do what is within our power, including working with our state legislatures and local governments to mitigate the immediate impacts of the drought, but the situation is now beyond our capacity as states or a region to manage without additional federal assistance,” the letter reads.

The dried and cracked soil
The dried and cracked soil in an irrigation ditch next to a cornfield on a farm is seen in Fresno, Calif., on July 24, 2021. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Currently, 99 percent of the western U.S. is experiencing a drought, compared to 63 percent at this time last year, the letter noted. Significant parts of California, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, and Washington are experiencing “Exceptional Drought,” according to the U.S Drought Monitor.

Many of those states are also experiencing a growing number of wildfires, of which their “direct and indirect impacts act as a force multiplier in the severity of hardships agriculture producers are experiencing.”

More than one million acres have been burned so far in California, with an estimated 3.9 million acres burned nationally so far in 2021, according to National Interagency Fire Center data.

The disaster declaration would allow the states’ “agriculture communities to access funding beyond what is available through existing emergency programs,” the governors said.

By Derek Draplin

The Center Square
The Center Square
The Center Square was launched in May 2019 to fulfill the need for high-quality statehouse and statewide news across the United States. The focus of our work is state- and local-level government and economic reporting. www.thecentersquare.com