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Vilsack announces drought initiatives

Audio courtesy of Gray Crawford with USDA
Right-click on the audio player below to download audio.

With drought still covering 62% of the continental United States, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced several initiatives to tackle the problem in Washington D.C. on Thursday.

Vilsack announced four new drought initiatives: an MOU between the Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and USDA, additional funding for EQIP, a pilot program under EQIP to increase farm pond capacities and the beginning of clearing rock pinnacles on the Mississippi River.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department of Commerce, NOAA, and USDA is intended to simplify communication between the three agencies and to improve drought forecasting and response.

The EQIP program received $16 million in additional funds for fiscal year 2013 to help with water and soil conservation programs in drought-stricken areas.

Also under the EQIP program, Vilsack announced a pilot program for producers in Kansas and Colorado, by which producers unable to clear sediment buildup in drought-drained farm ponds and thereby increase water capacity will receive additional funding to do so.

Not featured in the audio above, Vilsack also announced that the Army Corps of Engineers would begin work clearing rock pinnacles on the Mississippi River. The rock pinnacles become obstructions to barge traffic on the river when levels drop, as they have due to this year’s drought.

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