Posted July, 1 2015
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced another $150 million for California drought relief, according to a Western Farm Press article available here. Capital Press also published an article available hereand San Francisco Chronicle here.
In the next two years, the USDA’s Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) along with the Interior Department, the State of California, non-profits, and private landowners will invest $130 million in the partnership, totaling a minimum investment of $210 million.
The $150 million is in addition to the $110 million in drought relief for the West that officials announced on June 12 and the $190 million the federal government had already devoted to drought relief earlier this year. This investment includes $130 million for forest thinning and other projects in the woods and $13.7 million for struggling ranchers, according to Capital Press.
The money for livestock producers is available through NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program and includes short-term assistance as well as help with long-term solutions such as improving irrigation systems, Vilsack said.
“I think producers want to know that someone’s paying attention and understands the hurt that’s being felt throughout the countryside” because of the drought, said Vilsack. “I think they appreciate the fact that we know the link between our forests and water quality and conservation.”
The headwaters help provide drinking water to 25 million Californians and irrigate farms in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, according to the SF Chronicle.
Vilsack told reporters on a conference call that protecting national forests are key to preserving water resources. Expanding meadows and cutting down trees helps clear the path for snow to melt into streams and rivers, eventually making its way into farmland and reservoirs. Restoration can also ensure enough space for snow to stay on trees and meadows to also melt slowly into groundwater basins.
Approximately $14 million will help ranchers get water for cattle providing access to more water-efficient wells and pipelines, and $6 million for programs helping rural communities gain access to drinking water.
For more information on conservation programs, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.