Drought-system funding clears Congress

BOULDER – Sen. Mark Udall hailed passage of legislation in Congress on Wednesday that reauthorizes funding for the Boulder-based National Integrated Drought Information System for five more years.

According to Udall’s office, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the NIDIS will receive $13.8 million next year.

The NIDIS tracks and forecasts drought conditions throughout the United States, providing vital information to farmers, ranchers and other industries.

“The recent severe drought has staggered Colorado’s farmers and ranchers,” Udall said in a press release. “It’s the reason I have fought in Congress to improve our ability to forecast and monitor droughts and strengthen programs that help farmers coping with drought.”

The NIDIS is run out of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth Systems Research Lab in Boulder. The NIDIS accounts for seven full-time employees in Boulder, deputy program manager Chad McNutt said.

The NIDIS Act originally was signed into law in 2006 to help bring together government agencies in the development of a long-term plan for drought prevention, research and education. The National Integrated Drought Information System Reauthorization Act of 2013 is a companion bill to the Drought Information Act introduced a year ago.

Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas, John Thune, R-South Dakota, Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, and Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, also supported the bill, which now goes to the president for his signature.

 “Having that authorization is really critical in making sure the program continues to operate,” McNutt said.

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