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Column: Nebraska Hit Hard By Spreading Drought


Location: Unknown

Senator Ben Nelson
I got up close and personal with the drought of 2012 this August, and it's as serious as all the news stories have shown. After a detailed briefing by the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln and visits with farmers and ranchers around the state, it was plain to see that Nebraska needs help, and Nebraska needs it now.

This was the warmest July on record, actually the warmest month ever recorded in the U.S., and we're not through the thick of it yet. These hot and dry conditions are expected to last through autumn.

Largest Natural Disaster on Record

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared natural disaster areas from the drought in more than half the nation. The announcement was the largest declaration of national natural disaster on record. It was intended to speed relief to about a third of the country's farmers and ranchers who are suffering in drought conditions. While the declaration makes farmers and ranchers impacted by drought able to access federal aid and low interest emergency loans, more is needed.

Nebraska will have a rough recovery, but Nebraska will pull through. However, our road to recovery could be smoother with the long-term certainty of the natural disaster aid in the five-year farm bill.

One Extreme to Another

Last year Nebraska experienced record flooding. This year we are dealing with record droughts, but just as our ag producers persevered then, they will persevere now thanks to their hard work and support from the farm bill.

It's hard to believe that it was just 10 years ago when we were dealing with yet another drought, and facing the worst conditions since the Dust Bowl days 70 years ago.

I nicknamed the 2002 drought "David," to raise awareness of the devastating impact that droughts have. The thought was that while droughts and hurricanes are both damaging and costly natural disasters, droughts don't receive the same degree of public attention and response because droughts aren't fast moving and attention demanding like hurricanes.

Maybe the unfolding drought should be given a name so it can get the attention of certain members of the House who are standing in the way of passing a new five-year farm bill before the present bill expires at the end of September.

Agriculture is Important to America

Agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation's economy and every American should be concerned that the hot, dry weather has severely impacted ag producers around the country.

Now is not the time to play politics with them.

Hopefully, those who are stonewalling the farm bill in the House catch an ear and eye full when they're back in their districts this August. Ideally, they'll understand the importance of approving the farm bill as soon as they go back into session in September.

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