Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined President Barack Obama in Fresno, Calif., on February 14 to announce that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide additional assistance to help farmers, ranchers and residents affected by severe drought in California. At President Obama's direction, USDA has made implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill livestock disaster assistance programs a top priority and plans to have the programs available for sign up by April 15, 2014.

"President Obama and I will continue to do everything within our power to support California farmers, ranchers and families living in drought-stricken areas. This assistance, coupled with other aid being made available across government, should provide some relief during this difficult time," said Vilsack. "Thanks to the newly signed Farm Bill, we are now able to offer long-awaited livestock disaster assistance, which will provide needed stability for California livestock producers impacted by drought."

USDA has declared 54 counties in California as primary natural disaster areas due to drought. Additional USDA resources announced for California and other drought-stricken states include:

  • $100 million in livestock disaster assistance for California producers
  • $15 million in targeted conservation assistance for the most extreme and exceptional drought areas
  • $5 million in targeted Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program assistance to the most drought impacted areas of California to protect vulnerable soils
  • $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
  • $3 million in Emergency Water Assistance Grants for rural communities experiencing water shortages

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.