Federal Response to the 1976-77 Drought:

What Should Be Done Next?

CED-79-26: Published: Jan 31, 1979. Publicly Released: Feb 1, 1979.

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The federal response to the drought of 1976-77 was examined to ascertain the nature and extent of the relief and assistance, the extent to which the programs and projects accomplished their goals, the costs involved, and the lessons learned for future relief and assistance programs. The various drought relief programs were implemented primarily by the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and the Interior, and the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Some of the emergency legislation was enacted too late and certain drought programs were not implemented in a timely manner, preventing drought victims from receiving assistance. Numerous loans involving millions of dollars were approved for projects which had little, if any, impact in lessening the effects of the drought. The eligibility and repayment criteria for the various programs was inconsistent and confusing and resulted in the inequitable treatment of drought victims. Inadequate coordination among the agencies resulted in overlapping responsibilities and duplication of effort.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress passed legislation to put all farmers' disaster assistance programs under the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA).

    Matter: Congress should direct the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, and the Interior, and the Administrator, SBA, to assess the problems encountered in providing emergency relief during the 1976-77 drought. Based on the results of this assessment, a national plan should be developed for providing future assistance in a more timely, consistent, and equitable manner. Issues to be considered in the development of such a plan should be: (1) the identification of respective roles of agencies involved to avoid overlap and duplication; (2) the need for legislation to more clearly define those roles; and (3) the need for standby legislation to permit more timely response to drought-related problems.


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