White House lays out federal aid for drought-weary California

Feb 14, 2014 11:56 AM

By Nick Dobis, News Web/Social Media Producer

Today in Fresno President Barack Obama will outline plans on the federal level to help communities across California cope with the potential impacts of one the of the state’s worst droughts in over a century.

Air Force One is expected to land at the Fresno Airport around 2:30 p.m. this afternoon. While in Fresno Obama is expected to participate in a roundtable discussion with community leaders, tour a local farm to observe the current impacts of the drought, and deliver remarks regarding the federal aid.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has declared 54 counties in California as primary natural disaster areas as a result of the current drought, according to the White House. The declaration makes farmers and ranchers in those counties eligible for aid via emergency loans.

MAP: U.S. Drought Monitor, California

According to a White House memo released to the press last night, Obama’s federal aid plan will include several key packages, including making the USDA’s implementation of disaster programs a top priority. Obama aims to have the programs available for those who qualify in the next 60 days. According to the White House, ranchers will be able to sign up for the livestock disaster program not only for losses resulting from this years’ drought, but for losses they may have endured in 2012 and 2013.

Along with the aid programs, the USDA is expected to provide $15 million in targeted conservation assistance for the nation’s most extreme drought areas, including $5 million for areas in California. An additional $5 million will be infused into emergency watershed protection program assistance to help protect vulnerable soils in the state, according to the White House.

In order to help California families who may struggle due to the potential economic impact of the drought, a reported $60 million will be made available by the USDA to provide emergency food banks through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) as well as nearly 600 summer meal sites in collaboration with the California Department of Education.

Obama has also directed federal facilities in the state to immediately curb their water use.

Obama will be in Fresno until about 5:30 p.m. tonight. He will then fly to Rancho Mirage in southern California to meet with King Abdullah II of Jordan to discuss developments in the country’s region.


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