Updated: July 30, 2021 10:37 PM
Created: July 30, 2021 04:29 PM
Gov. Tim Walz is asking President Joe Biden to increase Minnesota livestock producers' access to lands for forage as the state faces a continued drought.
Walz was part of a White House briefing on Friday that focused on wildfires, also including six governors from Western states. Wildfires in the West and Canada are sending large amounts of smoke to Minnesota and even the East Coast.
"Our fire season doesn't normally start until the fall. And spring is a very dangerous time depending on the snowpack that we get the year before," Walz told the President. "With that being said, we are already 500 fires above where we have been."
In response to the drought, Walz has waived trucking regulations for the transportation of forage and livestock. The governor's office said he is working with federal partners to create flexibility to expand access to forage for livestock.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued its third natural disaster declaration in less than two weeks for parts of Minnesota. Farmers in much of the state are now eligible to apply for loans to pay for replacement of equipment or livestock, reorganization of a farming operation, or the refinancing of certain debts.
The U.S. Drought Monitor says 97% of Minnesota is currently in some form of drought, with 22% of the state in an extreme drought. The areas of extreme drought are in north-central, northwestern, and west-central Minnesota.
As for the wildfires, Biden acknowledged during the briefing that resources are being stretched.
"We're in for a long fight yet this year. And the only way we're going to meet those challenges is by working together. Wildfires are a problem for all of us, and we have to stay closely coordinated and doing everything we can for our people," Biden said.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee discussed a shortage of supplies to combat and contain the fires during the briefing. But he said his biggest worry is that Biden's agenda to reduce carbon emissions and limit climate change not clear Congress through the party-line budget process known as reconciliation.
The bipartisan briefing included four Democratic governors and three Republican governors.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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