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Federal/State Agencies & Assistance Programs

In disaster situations such as these, support programs exist to help minimize the negative long-term business impacts that result from the lack of water. These programs demonstrate that California farmers and ranchers are an essential part of our community and economy. These programs are offered by the following federal and state agencies listed below:

USDA Risk Management Agency

The United States Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency (RMA) operates and manages the Federal Crop Insurance.

  • Crop Insurance Policies and ProvisionsProducers who purchased crop insurance are covered for natural causes of loss listed in their policies. Federal Crop Insurance Commission (FCIC) programs are administered by RMA and sold and serviced by private insurance companies. Policies are yield and revenue based and vary across commodities and regions. Crop insurance is offered for 60 of California's commodities. Producers must purchase or change their policy terms by the established sales closing date. For information about crop insurance programs and important dates view the crop specific factsheets at the RMA website. To find a local agent visit the RMA agent website.

USDA Farm Service Agency

The USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) assists California’s farmers and ranchers through farm loans, commodity price support, disaster relief, and conservation practices.

  • Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) – This Program provides financial assistance to producers of noninsurable crops when low yields, loss of inventory or prevented planting occurs due to natural disasters. Previously, the program offered coverage at 55 percent of the average market price for crop losses that exceed 50 percent of expected production. However producers can now choose higher levels of coverage – up to 65 percent of their expected production at 100 percent of the average market price. A new web tool is now available for producers to determine whether their crops are eligible for coverage. The tool can be accessed here. To learn more, visit the Farm Service Agency (FSA) website here, or contact your local FSA office here.
  • Livestock Forage Program (LFP) – LFP provides compensation to eligible livestock producers who have suffered grazing losses due to drought or fire. LFP payments for drought are equal to 60 percent of the monthly feed cost for up to five months. LFP payments for fire on federally managed rangeland are equal to 50 percent of the monthly feed cost for the number of days the producer is prohibited from grazing the managed rangeland, not to exceed 180 calendar days. The grazing losses must have occurred on or after Oct. 1, 2011. Please consult your local FSA office for details. The Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) will provide payments to eligible producers for livestock deaths and grazing losses that have occurred since October 1, 2011.
  • Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, & Farm-Raised Fish (ELAP) – This program provides emergency assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honey bees and farm-raised fish for losses due to disease (including cattle tick fever), adverse weather, or other conditions, such as blizzards and wildfires, not covered by LFP and LIP. Total payments are capped at $20 million in a fiscal year. Enrollment began on April 15 for producers with losses covered by the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP).
    • Water Hauling Update: FSA’s Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP) now may reimburse livestock operations for water hauling. Previously, this assistance was in FSA’s Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) but applications for water hauling assistance were shifted to ELAP.
  • Emergency Farm Loans – This program provides emergency loans to help assist producers with: restoring/replacing essential property; production cost during a disaster year; refinancing of debt and business/living expenses. Eligibility is restricted to producers within counties designated as disaster areas by the USDA Secretary of Agriculture. Loans are limited to $500,000. Residents of all California counties may apply.
  • Disaster Set-Aside Program – This program provides producers who have existing direct loans with FSA who are unable to make the scheduled payments to move up to one full year’s payment to the end of the loan.
  • Emergency Haying and Grazing of Conservation Reserve Program Acreage (CRP) – Emergency haying and grazing of CRP acreage may be authorized to provide relief to livestock producers in areas affected by a severe drought or similar natural disaster. Allows producers with existing CRP contracts to apply to hay or graze CRP acreage in counties approved for Emergency Haying and Grazing. Producers must seek approval from their county Farm Service Agency office prior to starting the haying or grazing of CRP acreage. The haying and grazing must occur outside the Primary Nesting Season
  • Tree Assistance Program – The Agricultural Act of 2014 (the 2014 Farm Bill) authorized the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) to provide financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters. Eligible trees, bushes and vines are those from which an annual crop is produced for commercial purposes. Nursery trees include ornamental, fruit, nut and Christmas trees produced for commercial sale. Trees used for pulp or timber are ineligible.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with landowners through conservation planning and assistance that results in productive lands and healthy ecosystems.

  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)– EQIP provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers in order to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation or improved or created wildlife habitat. Eligible program participants receive financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices, or activities like conservation planning, that address natural resource concerns on their land. Payments are made to participants after conservation practices and activities identified in an EQIP plan of operations are implemented. Contracts can last up to ten years in duration. Agricultural producers and owners of non-industrial private forestland and Tribes are eligible to apply for EQIP. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, non-industrial private forestland and other farm or ranch lands. Socially disadvantaged, beginning and limited resource farmers, Indian tribes and veterans are eligible for an increased payment rate and may receive advance payment of up to 50 percent to purchase materials and services needed to implement conservation practices included in their EQIP contract.
    • Catastrophic Fire Recovery Initiative: USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has funds available through its Catastrophic Fire Recovery Initiative to address the immediate impacts of fire on natural resources and land that has suffered impacts from recent California wildfires. This assistance is available to agricultural operators or private non-industrial forest owners and applications will be accepted and considered for possible funding on a continuing basis. The purpose of the Catastrophic Fire Recovery Initiative is to provide quick resource protection in areas burned by catastrophic fires in the past 18 months. Priority concerns include immediate soil erosion protection, minimizing encroachment by invasive plants, protecting water quality, protecting fish and wildlife habitat, bringing back forests, and restoring livestock infrastructure necessary for grazing management. Financial assistance for conservation under this initiative is being made available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Applications for this initiative can be submitted to your local USDA Service Center.
  • Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) – Conservation Technical Assistance provides help to land users – farmers, ranchers, nonindustrial private forests landowners and tribes – to address opportunities, concerns, and problems related to the use of natural resources and to help land users make sound natural resource management decisions.

USDA Food and Nutrition Service

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works to end hunger and obesity through the administration of 15 federal nutrition assistance programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and school meals.

  • Food Assistance for Disaster Relief – The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) coordinates with state, local and voluntary organizations to provide food for shelters and other mass feeding sites, distribute food packages to households in limited situations, and issue Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) benefits. As part of the National Response Framework, FNS provides nutrition assistance to those most affected by a disaster or emergency. To find a SNAP office or food outreach project near you, click here.

USDA Rural Development

The USDA’s Rural Development (RD) service provides information and technical assistance to help members of the agricultural community improve the effectiveness of their operations.

  • Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant (ECWAG) – This program assists rural communities that have experienced a significant decline in quantity or quality of drinking water due to an emergency, or in which such decline is considered imminent, to obtain or maintain adequate quantities of water that meets the standards set by the Safe Drinking Water Act. Locate an office near you here. Find out more details on this program here .
  • Community Facilities Direct and Guaranteed Loan Program – Community Facilities Programs provide loans, grants, and loan guarantees for essential community facilities in rural areas and towns of up to 20,000 in population. Loans and guarantees are available to public entities such as municipalities, counties, parishes, boroughs, and special-purpose districts, as well as to non-profit corporations and tribal governments.
  • Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) – The RCDI is a grant program meant to develop the capacity and ability of private, nonprofit community-based housing and community development organizations, and low income rural communities to improve housing, community facilities, community and economic development projects in rural areas. Recipients must be non-profit organizations, low-income rural communities, or federally recognized tribes. Intermediary organizations are required to provide matching funds at least equal to the RCDI grant. The grants do not go directly to business recipients but rather through qualified intermediaries. Applications must be submitted to the USDA Rural Development state office where the applicant's headquarters are located.

US Small Business Administration

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) is an independent agency of the federal government that aids, counsels, assists, and protects the interests of small business concerns.

  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) – Small, nonfarm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and private, nonprofit organizations of any size may qualify for EIDLs of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred. These businesses must be located in counties designated as disaster areas by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. The interest rate on EIDLs will not exceed 4 percent per year.

    Disaster loan information and application forms are also available from SBA’s Customer Service Center by calling (800) 659-2955 or e-mailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. Individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may call (800) 877-8339. For more information about SBA’s disaster assistance programs, visit http://www.sba.gov/disaster.

CA Department of Food and Agriculture

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) strives to support agriculture in California by working with private industry, academia and public sector agencies on behalf of farmers and ranchers.

  • State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) – CDFA’s SWEEP program provides financial incentives for California agricultural operations to invest in water irrigation and treatment and/or distribution systems that save water and reduce greenhouse gases (energy use). Information regarding the 2016 SWEEP program is available on the program website.

University of California – Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • The University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) is the bridge between local issues and the power of UC Research. ANR's advisors, specialists and faculty bring practical, science-based answers to Californians. ANR works hand in hand with industry to enhance agricultural markets, help the balance of trade, address environmental concerns, protect plant health, and provide farmers with scientifically tested production techniques and Californians with increased food safety.
  • Drought Resources: In the midst of historic drought, California’s academic institutions serve as a tremendous resource both in offering everything from near-term management advice to farmers and ranchers to the innovative work being carried out by researchers on a vast array of issues from drought resistant crops to snow sensors to climate change. These resources are being continuously updated as we work to bring the resources of the state’s universities and colleges to a broad range of communities. To visit the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Drought Web Page, click here.

CA Department of Community Services and Development

The CA Department of Community Services and Development (CSD) partners with private, non-profit and local, government community-based organizations dedicated to helping provide assistance to low-income individuals and families. As part of a federal Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) award, CSD provides funding for several programs to provide assistance. CSBG funds innovative programs that address the leading causes of poverty as determined locally by administering community based organizations. To name a few, CSBG helps low-income individuals obtain employment, increase their education, access vital early childhood programs, and achieve or maintain their independence. CSBG funding supports projects that:

  • Lessen poverty in communities
  • Address the needs of low-income individuals including the homeless, migrants and the elderly
  • Provide services and activities addressing employment, education, better use of available income, housing, nutrition, emergency services and/or health

Services under CSBG are provided by non-profit and public agencies in local communities throughout the state. Due to the unique block grant requirements of CSBG, services offered throughout the state will vary depending on the local needs assessment conducted in each community.

To read more about these programs, please visit CSD's Drought Web Page.

CA Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD)

The CA Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) provides leadership, policies and programs to preserve and expand safe and affordable housing opportunities and promote strong communities for all Californians. In disaster situations support programs exist to help minimize the negative long-term business impacts that result from the lack of water. These programs demonstrate that California farmers and ranchers are an essential part of our community and economy.

The CA Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) currently offers the following programs:

  • Drought Housing Relocation Assistance (DHRA) Program
  • Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program
  • Home Investment Partnerships (HOME) Program
  • CalHome Program

For more information, please visit HCD’s Drought Web Page.

Additional information will be provided as it becomes available, including additional state and federal resources.

Snowpack Comparison

drought comparison

These NASA satellite images illustrate the severity of the drought by contrasting the Sierra Nevada snowpack levels in March 2010 and 2015.

save our water banner

Drought Assistance Brochure

If you have any suggestions for saving water, please email: H2Oideas@caloes.ca.gov

California Department of Water Resources: Water Deliveries
US Bureau of Reclamation: Central Valley Project

Drought News

California Water Commission Approves Regulations to Guide the Sustainable Groundwater Management Plans of California Communities (DWR)
(Chris Orrock, California Water Commission) –

California today moved a big step closer to implementation of an historic law to protect groundwater basins from overdraft, as the California Water Commission approved regulations that will guide creation of sustainability plans by local groundwater agencies.

Governor Brown Issues Order to Continue Water Savings as Drought Persists: Executive Order Aims to Make Water Conservation a Way of Life in California

Moving to bolster California's climate and drought resilience, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued an executive order that builds on temporary statewide emergency water restrictions to establish longer-term water conservation measures, including permanent monthly water use reporting, new permanent water use standards in California communities and bans on clearly wasteful practices such as hosing off sidewalks, driveways and other hardscapes.

State Water Board Adopts 'Stress Test' Approach to Water Conservation Regulation
(George Kostyrko, State Water Resources Control Board) –

The State Water Resources Control Board adopted a statewide water conservation approach that replaces the prior percentage reduction-based water conservation standard with a localized "stress test" approach that mandates urban water suppliers act now to ensure at least a three year supply of water to their customers under drought conditions. Recognizing persistent yet less severe drought conditions throughout California, the newly adopted emergency regulation will replace the Feb. 2 emergency water conservation regulation that set specific water conservation benchmarks at the state level for each urban water supplier. The adopted regulation, which will be in effect through January 2017, requires locally developed conservation standards based upon each agency's specific circumstances.

Program Contacts

USDA Risk Management Agency
Sandy Sanchez, Deputy Director
(530) 792-5890
USDA Farm Service Agency
Contact your county office.
Find it here
Natural Resource Conservation Service
Alan Forkey, Farm Bill Program Manager
(530) 792-5652
USDA Rural Development
Carol Pranka, Business & Cooperative Specialist
(530) 574-7410
CA Dept of Food & Agriculture
Public Affairs Office
(916) 654-0462

U.S. Drought Monitor

U. S. Drought Monitor