Obama to Offer Millions in Aid to Drought-Stricken California

February 14, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama is offering millions of dollars in aid and other assistance to California farmers, ranchers and communities beset by one of the worst droughts in the state’s history.

The federal help will be detailed today by Obama when he’s joined by California Governor Jerry Brown in Fresno, in the state’s fertile Central Valley. The drought is forcing farmers there to leave idle thousands of acres of fields in the state that supplies almost half of the nation’s fruits and vegetables. It has also left 17 rural towns so low on drinking water that the state may need to start trucking in supplies.

“The federal government will do all that it can to try to alleviate some of the stress,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on a conference call yesterday previewing the trip. “We are here to help, to the extent that we can.”

The administration plans to accelerate distribution of as much as $100 million in aid to ranchers to help feed livestock and offer compensation for losses. The Agriculture Department is also making available $15 million in conservation aid for the worst drought regions in California and five other drought-stricken states to reduce wind erosion on damaged fields and improve livestock access to water.

The White House said $60 million has been made available to California food banks for families affected by the drought, and plans are under way to establish 600 summer meal sites in hard-hit regions this summer.

Another $5 million is being set aside to protect vulnerable soil, along with $3 million in grants to communities facing water shortages and $3 million in grants for towns facing a decline in water quality or quantity.

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