Mr. ENYART. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Chairman, today I rise to offer an amendment to this bill to help agriculture in southern Illinois, my State of Illinois and, indeed, in the entire Nation the next time drought strikes.
After Hurricane Sandy, the drought of 2012 was the second most costly natural disaster in the world. The drought cost upwards of $35 billion in total losses. It devastated southern Illinois crops and crops throughout the Midwest. The fact that there is no national response or preparedness plan for drought increases these costs by at least 25 percent. Indeed, FEMA is not even authorized to address drought even when areas are declared natural disasters due to drought.
In the 110th Congress, my colleague from Florida, Congressman Alcee Hastings, offered legislation to establish a national drought council. I applaud his foresight and his work, which was included in the House version of the farm bill. Unfortunately, House and Senate conferees failed to include it in the final bill. Had it been included, perhaps the Federal response to last year's drought would have been streamlined and devastating losses mitigated.
My amendment, which is based on Congressman Hastings' work, would give the Secretary of Agriculture an important tool to help our farmers more quickly. The council would be tasked to develop a comprehensive national drought action plan that defines responsibilities for drought preparedness, mitigation, research, risk management, training, and emergency relief programs. The plan provides guidance to Federal agencies to ensure their activities are coordinated with the activities of States,
local governments, Indian tribes, and neighboring countries.
Through an annual report to Congress, the council will make recommendations to eliminate duplication and to establish common interagency triggers to authorize Federal drought programs.
Based on a review of drought preparedness plans, the council will develop and make available to the public drought planning models. What this appointed council would not do is draw a paycheck, establish a new office, or increase the Federal bureaucracy.
It's not a question of will a drought strike; it's a question of when. When it does, we need to be better prepared.
I urge adoption of this amendment and ask the support of my colleagues.