Departments of Agriculture and Interior Announce Historic Climate Investments and New Strategy to Address Western Drought
Washington, D.C. — Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet welcomed nearly $1 billion from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to address the Western water crisis and to invest in environmentally-friendly farming practices. This funding comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and the Fiscal Year 2023 federal funding bill.
“The American West is in crisis. This funding will help communities, water users, and family farmers and ranchers mitigate the effects of the 1,200 year megadrought,” said Bennet. “There’s more to do to protect our Western way of life, but this is a strong start.”
Earlier today, the USDA announced the availability of $850 million for agricultural producers and forest landowners nationwide to participate in voluntary conservation programs and adopt environmentally-friendly farming practices. This funding is available through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for its oversubscribed conservation programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).
In addition, the USDA unveiled its Western Water and Working Lands Framework for Conservation Action, a comprehensive, multi-state strategy under NRCS to address key water and land management challenges across the American West. This announcement comes after Bennet called on the USDA to prioritize Western drought in a bipartisan letter with his Senate colleagues in December. Guided by this framework, the USDA announced $25 million in WaterSMART funds to help Western farmers and ranchers conserve water through a partnership with Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and NRCS.
Today, the BOR announced $125 million to support relaunching the System Conservation Pilot Program in the Upper Colorado River Basin. This funding was reauthorized through Bennet and Colorado U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper’s Colorado River Basin Conservation Act, which was included and signed into law in the Fiscal Year 2023 omnibus federal funding bill.
As the Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Climate, Forestry and Natural Resources, Bennet has pushed to make major investments in our forests, western water infrastructure, and agricultural economy to help confront climate change. Bennet helped secure more than $8.3 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for Western water infrastructure projects.
In the Inflation Reduction Act, Bennet secured $4 billion to address drought in the West and in the Colorado River Basin, as well as $20 billion in working lands conservation measures and $5 billion to restore the health of our forests to prevent wildfires, modeled after his Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act. At Bennet’s urging, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also made a major investment in our forests – for a combined historic $10 billion.
Combined, these laws represent the largest investments in climate resilience in the nation’s history.