July 15, 2005 -- Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns have activated Interagency Drought Action Teams to coordinate drought relief to communities in western states that face the greatest potential water shortages this summer.
Although the Department of Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have different approaches and tools for addressing drought conditions, the teams of USDA and DOI specialists based in the affected areas are working in conjunction with state governments to address drought conditions in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and other states as needs are identified.
"In our ongoing efforts to help farmers, ranchers and rural communities impacted by drought, we are working with states and local communities to take action where the greatest needs exist," Johanns said. "By focusing on this issue early, we will be able to better target our drought-relief assistance to farmers and ranchers in these states in the critical months ahead."
The Drought Action Team initiative stems from a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2003 as part of Interior's Water 2025: Preventing Crises and Conflict in the West Program. Interior and USDA established an Interagency Drought Coordination Task Force, co-chaired by the deputy secretary of each department, to identify areas with severe water-supply problems that need immediate, focused assistance and use the teams to mobilize appropriate federal resources to help communities and producers in need.
Both departments offer a range of assistance programs. Information on USDA relief to farmers, ranchers and local communities is on-line at http://disaster.usda.gov. Information on the Drought Action Teams, Memorandum of Understanding and Interior's Water 2025 proposal are on-line at http://www.doi.gov/water2025.