Washington, D.C., February 4, 2014 – CDFA Secretary Karen Ross issued the following statement after joining USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack this morning to announce $20 million in federal assistance to support water conservation efforts by California farmers during severe drought conditions:
“This partnership with the Federal government will provide additional help to California’s farmers and ranchers during this severe drought," said Secretary Ross. We’re working with all of our partners across California to make sure these resources get to those who need them most.”
Today’s announcement builds on the efforts already underway by CDFA to support California’s drought response. CDFA has developed a web page as an information clearinghouse on assistance programs for farmers, ranchers and farmworkers; is working with federal and state agencies to plan a number of farmer and farmworker forums on assistance programs; will continue to work with California food banks to address drought-related impacts; and is working with the University of California to develop a real-time assessment of drought impacts in farming and ranching communities. Additionally, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. spoke with President Barack Obama last week regarding federal drought assistance and is working on state legislation that will provide additional support to those impacted by these dry conditions.
USDA is announcing this additional funding through the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to help agricultural operators use water more efficiently, stabilize fallowed cropland, and protect their livelihoods for the future. Funds are available statewide to install a number of conservation practices including irrigation efficiency, cover crops, rehabilitation of existing spring developments, protection of grazing lands, and other supporting components.
Funds will be divided between two specific funding pools: cropland and grazing lands. Cropland with a reduced water allocation of at least 85 percent will receive the highest priority. In order to be considered eligible for EQIP, the applicant must have a vested interest in agricultural production and meet other program eligibility requirements. For additional information, eligible landowners are encouraged to contact their local NRCS Service Center. Service center locations and more information on the drought initiative can be found at www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov. Interested landowners and managers have until March 3 to apply for available funds.
With California facing its driest year on record, Governor Brown declared a drought State of Emergency last month and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages. Last week, the state took action to conserve water in numerous Northern California reservoirs to meet minimum needs for operations that impact the environment and the economy. In January CAL FIRE hired 125 additional firefighters to help address the increased fire threat due to drought conditions, the California Department of Public Health identified and offered assistance to communities at risk of severe drinking water shortages and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife restricted fishing on some waterways due to low water flows worsened by the drought. Also last month, the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Food and Agriculture also released the California Water Action Plan, which will guide state efforts to enhance water supply reliability, restore damaged and destroyed ecosystems and improve the resilience of our infrastructure.
Governor Brown has called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 20 percent, and the Save Our Water campaign launched four public service announcements encouraging residents to conserve. Last December, the Governor formed a Drought Task Force to review expected water allocations and California’s preparedness for water scarcity. In May 2013, Governor Brown issued an Executive Order to direct state water officials to expedite the review and processing of voluntary transfers of water and water rights.
California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Public Affairs
1220 N St., Ste. 214, Sacramento, CA 95814