An Administration-wide Response to the Drought


As communities across California struggle with the impacts of one of the state’s worst droughts in over 100 years, President Obama is committed to ensuring that his Administration is doing everything it can help the farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and communities being impacted.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other federal agencies are using their existing authorities and working closely with their state and local partners as the state of California responds to and recovers from this historic drought.

Help for Farmers and Ranchers

Emergency Agriculture Loans: The U.S. Department of Agriculture declared 54 counties in California as primary natural disaster areas due to drought, making farmers and ranchers in those counties eligible for assistance through emergency loans. See a map of disaster designated counties,or a list of counties

Funding for conservation efforts on key agricultural lands: The USDA recently announced $15 million in funding to help farmers and ranchers in the most extreme and exceptional drought areas implement conservation practices that conserve scarce water resources, reduce wind erosion on drought-impacted fields and improve livestock access to water. This includes $5 million in assistance to California and $10 million for drought-impacted areas in Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado and New Mexico, and builds on the $20 million in funding already made available to support agricultural conservation enhancements in California. The funds will be divided into two pools: grazing lands and cropland. Cropland with a reduced water allocation of at least 85% will receive the highest priority.

$100 million in livestock disaster assistance for California producers. The 2014 Farm Bill contains permanent livestock disaster programs including the Livestock Forage Disaster Program which will help producers in California and other areas recover from the drought. At President Obama’s direction, USDA is making implementation of the disaster programs a top priority and plans to have the programs available for sign up in 60 days.

Help for affected communities

$3 million in Emergency Water Assistance Grants for rural communities experiencing water shortages. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is making $3 million in grants available to help rural communities that are experiencing a significant decline in the quality or quantity of drinking water due to the drought obtain or maintain water sources of sufficient quantity and quality. These funds will be provided to eligible, qualified communities by application through USDA-Rural Development’s Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants (ECWAG). California state health officials have already identified 17 small community water districts in 10 counties that are at risk of running out of water in 60-120 days. This number is expected to increase if current conditions persist.

$60 million for food banks. $60 million has been made available to food banks in the State of California to help families that may be economically impacted by the drought. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing help to food banks through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

$5 million in Emergency Watershed Protection assistance. The Emergency Watershed Protection program helps communities address watershed impairments due to drought and other natural occurrences. This funding will help drought-ravaged communities and private landowners address watershed impairments, such as stabilizing stream banks and replanting upland sites stripped of vegetation.

For More Information

Investing in Climate Resilience

As called for in the President’s Climate Action Plan, the National Drought Resilience Partnership was established in November to help communities better prepare for droughts and to reduce the impact of drought events on livelihoods and the economy. The partnership, which is comprised of seven federal agencies, is coordinating federal preparedness for drought and working closely with the State of California and other partners to improve community preparedness and resilience to drought. The lessons learned in California will inform how the Federal government helps other drought-impacted communities prepare in the future.

In addition to responding to the immediate drought in California, the President believes that we must do more to help communities across the country become more resilient to the effects of climate change. Recent events have reinforced our knowledge that our communities and economy remain vulnerable to extreme weather and natural hazards. For that reason, the President’s 2015 Budget that will be released next month will include a new $1 billion Climate Resilience Fund. Through this Fund, the President proposes that we:

  • Invest in research and unlock data and information to better understand the projected impacts of climate change and how we can better prepare our communities and infrastructure.
  • Help communities plan and prepare for the impacts of climate change and encourage local measures to reduce future risk.
  • Fund breakthrough technologies and resilient infrastructure that will make us more resilient in the face of changing climate.

President Obama in California

President Barack Obama tours a field with farmer Joe Del Bosque, his wife Maria, and California Gov. Jerry Brown in Los Banos, Calif., Feb. 14, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Related Blog Posts

  • Administration-Wide Response to the Drought

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  • Introducing the National Drought Resilience Partnership

    Today, the Obama Administration is excited to announce a new partnership between seven Federal agencies that will help communities better prepare for droughts and reduce the impact of drought events on families and businesses. The interagency National Drought Resilience Partnership is part of the President’s Climate Action Plan. Federal agencies are already working with communities, businesses and farmers and ranchers to build resilience to drought on the ground, and this Partnership will enhance those efforts.

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