President Barack Obama on Monday directed the federal government to come up with a less reactionary and more long-term strategy for dealing with drought.
About 12.5 percent of the continental U.S. was experiencing drought as of mid-March, said Alice Hill, a key Obama aide on this issue.
Drought affects the food supply and infrastructure, hurts the economy and increases energy costs, according to the action plan. Drought conditions are also expected to become increasingly more severe due to climate change. Combating climate change is a top environmental priority — as well as a legacy issue — for Obama, who has tackled the matter on a variety of fronts.
“With climate change, we know that drought will intensify and continue to cause us significant challenges,” Hill said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, explaining some of the rationale behind the president’s call for a more comprehensive and less reactionary strategy for coping with drought.
Federal agencies last year pledged $110 million in drought aid after Obama met with leaders from seven Western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Wyoming and Utah.
The White House released Obama’s drought initiatives as the president traveled in Havana on a historic, three-day visit to Cuba.