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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release May 16, 2000

     I commend Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman and the National

Drought Policy Commission for issuing the Commission's report on the need for an integrated, coordinated federal policy, designed to prepare for and respond to serious drought emergencies.

Every year drought occurs somewhere in the United States. The size of the area affected and the duration of the drought vary, but drought always brings hardship. In fact, year in and year out, drought causes far more damage for America's family farmers and ranchers than any other weather event. According to FEMA, drought costs farmers and ranchers an estimated $6-8 billion per year on average, far more than the damages caused by either floods or hurricanes. In severe drought years, damages truly can be staggering. Other water-dependent businesses, rural communities, and the general public also suffer from drought. Yet little is done to help prepare for drought or lessen its effects.

We need a consistent, comprehensive national drought policy with preparedness as its cornerstone. We need to ensure that communities have the tools they need to plan and prepare for drought. If armed with good information on the natural resources on their land along with soil moisture and climate information, farmers and ranchers can take steps in advance to mitigate effects of drought. Our policy should address the impact of drought on the nation as a whole. It is like the old adage: "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

After reviewing the Commission's report, I intend to work with Congress to enact a national drought policy that makes sense. We should adopt a forward-looking stance to reduce this nation's vulnerability to drought. Although our focus should be on drought mitigation and avoidance, we also should recognize that drought ultimately is unavoidable. Together,I hope we will find ways to provide strong safety nets for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities who suffer drought-related losses.