New Legislation: What you need to know about the Improved Soil Moisture and Precipitation Monitoring Act

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South Dakota's U.S. Senator John Thune recently proposed legislation that could change the way drought is dealt with across the country. The Improved Soil Moisture and Precipitation Act, introduced to Congress on May 23, works to address concerns in respect to the monitoring and consistency of rainfall data. This rainfall data is used by USDA agencies in determining the eligibility for drought resources and grazing conditions on federally managed lands. Lack of accuracy in rainfall data can lead to discrepancy between USDA agencies, leaving farmers and ranchers to shoulder the brunt. According to the Senator's press release, the proposed legislation would:
  • Grant the secretary of agriculture the discretion to improve soil moisture monitoring by increasing the number of monitoring stations or by utilizing other appropriate cost-effective soil moisture measuring devices;
  • Increase the number of precipitation and soil moisture monitoring stations in any area that has experienced extreme or exceptional drought for any six month period since the beginning of 2016, including South Dakota, and authorizes a $5 million per year appropriation to do so;
  • Require USDA to develop standards to integrate data from citizen scientists and to collect soil moisture data; and
  • Require USDA agencies to use consistent precipitation monitoring data and drought assessment across the programs that USDA administers.
 

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