Mr. SMITH of Texas. Madam Speaker, I want to thank the former chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee for yielding me time.
H.R. 2431, the National Integrated Drought Information System Reauthorization Act of 2013, makes minor improvements to the NIDIS program and helps establish better drought forecasting and coordination.
I am glad that the Science, Space, and Technology Committee's chairman emeritus, Congressman Ralph Hall of Texas, is the lead sponsor of this bill and the original author of the NIDIS authorization in 2006. I thank the gentleman for his persistent leadership over the years on this issue.
Recent droughts in Texas and around the country have been severe. The NIDIS program has helped State and local governments, farmers, ranchers, and others both monitor and predict drought conditions.
More than one-third of the United States is currently experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions. By some estimates, the historic drought in 2012 cost our national economy as much as $70 billion.
NIDIS is a good program that has a history of bipartisan support. It represents the kind of interagency and intergovernmental cooperation that we need to reauthorize in this difficult fiscal environment.
As a success story, the NIDIS program currently operates the U.S. Drought Portal, a Web site that features a range of services related to drought. This includes historical data on past droughts, current data from climate observations, early warnings about emerging and potential droughts, decision support services for managing droughts, and a forum for stakeholders to discuss drought-related issues.
These services have been vital to our efforts to better forecast as well as understand the conditions that lead to drought. This bill reauthorizes an important program that provides early warnings about potential droughts. It also supports services for local and State decisionmakers to better manage and prepare for drought conditions.
I urge my colleagues to support this bill.