Obama to announce aid to drought-stricken California

10:45 PM, Feb 14, 2014   |    comments
President Obama (Photo: MANDEL NGAN. AFP/Getty Images)
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(USA Today) -- President Obama will order the Agriculture Department to expedite applications for federal assistance after record-setting droughts that have ravaged farmers in California and elsewhere.

During a visit Friday to Fresno, Calif., Obama will pledge that up to $100 million in aid will be available to California farmers within 60 days, the White House said.

The president is expected to discuss more than $160 million in drought aid, including $100 million authorized through the farm bill he signed last week for programs that cover loss of livestock.

"The federal government will do all it can to try to alleviate some of the stress connected with this drought," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said that livestock programs "took over a year to get assistance out the door under the last farm bill," but now the administration is "committed to cut that time by more than 80%, and begin sign-up in April."

In addition, about $60 million will be designated for food banks that serve families hurt by water shortages.

Obama is also expected to order federal facilities to limit their water consumption.

During his visit to Fresno, Obama "will participate in a roundtable with community leaders, tour a local farm and deliver remarks," the White House schedule says.

In those remarks, Obama is expected to link this year's drought in California to evidence of global warming.

The president will propose a new $1 billion "Climate Resilence Fund," to research the effects of climate change and to help local governments prepare for them.

"This is part of a broader approach to dealing with the challenge, represented by climate change, that the president put forward in his Climate Action Plan," Carney said.

The proposed fund likely faces opposition in Congress, particularly from members of the Republican-run House.

From Reuters:

"California is coming off its driest year on record and a recent winter storm did little to dull the impact of the drought in the state that produces half the country's fruits and vegetables. A recent drought monitor said 91.6 percent of the state is experiencing severe to exceptional drought.

"Obama will announce $15 million in aid to help farmers and ranchers implement water conservation practices. This includes $5 million for California and $10 million for hard-hit areas in Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado and New Mexico.

"Among other measures, Obama will said he has directed federal facilities in California to take steps to immediately curb water use, including a moratorium on new landscaping projects that are not deemed essential."

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