The Bureau of Reclamation is working on new steps to prevent further depletion of drought-stricken Colorado River reservoirs that are critical for agriculture and cities but shrinking to levels that can’t sustain hydropower.
The federal government’s Drought Resilience Interagency Working Group is helping coordinate the distribution of $13 billion provided by the infrastructure bill as drought continues to hammer western communities.
The Interior Department is doling out more than $240 million for repairs to aging water infrastructure in the drought-ridden West, one of the first investments with ramifications for agriculture in the $1.5 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law enacted last year.
The Bureau of Reclamation only plans to allocate 50,000 acre-feet of water to Klamath Basin farmers this year, a drought-inspired move that has producers concerned about the 170,000 acres of cropland they hoped to irrigate.
Farmers and water managers across the West are bracing for another potentially dry year, even as they wait for rain and snow that could help alleviate drought conditions. But with climate change reducing annual snowpack and the water it promises, the Bureau of Reclamation is in search of new and more accurate forecast tools.
The Biden administration expects to start distributing the first dollars from the new, bipartisan infrastructure bill in the first half of 2022, but it is likely to take significantly longer for farmers and rural Americans to see some of the long-sought spending.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a fiscal 2022 spending bill for the Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration that includes about $7 billion in disaster assistance and $700 million for USDA’s ReConnect program for rural broadband.
Higher prices for meat and other foods are helping fuel the inflation that is pinching consumers. Supermarket prices rose 0.8% in June, driven by a 2.5% increase for meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. Beef prices rose 4.5% last month.