White House to float more drought relief to Western states

White House to float more drought relief to Western states

White House says drought relief will come as food assistance, job assistance, USDA RMA changes and other efforts

The White House on Friday announced a group of new actions and investments of more than $110 million designed to support workers, farmers and rural communities suffering from drought and to combat wildfires.

The new funding builds on more than $190 million that agencies across the Federal Government have invested to support drought-stricken communities so far this year. In addition, USDA is projecting that they will provide at least $1.2 billion this year in assistance to livestock producers facing grazing losses as a result of the drought across the West.

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White House says drought relief will come as food assistance, job assistance, USDA RMA changes and other efforts (Thinkstock/JuanCruzdF)

The new actions include helping displaced workers by creating jobs; supporting livestock and crop farmers through a variety of programs; improving water efficiency; and protecting communities from wildfire.

To help workers, the Department of Labor will award as much as $18 million to the State of California to provide jobs for workers dislocated by the drought. Starting in July, this National Dislocated Worker Grant will employ up to 1,000 workers for up to 6 months with public and nonprofit agencies working to build drought resilience, reduce wildfire risk, and improve water efficiency.

Farmers, through the Risk Management Agency, will be allowed to exclude their exceptionally bad production years, which are often the result of drought, from the calculation of their crop insurance coverage. This action will provide an estimated $30 million in additional relief to farmers in Fiscal Year 2016, and $42 million in Fiscal Year 2017.

Through its Livestock Forage Program, USDA projects it will provide at least $1.2 billion in assistance to livestock producers in fiscal year 2015; and the USDA Food and Nutrition Service has committed to working with faith-based and community groups to help them establish at least 760 summer food service meal sites in drought-impacted Central Valley communities in 2015.

To improve water use and efficiency, the Bureau of Reclamation is announcing $6.5 million in fiscal year 2015 to support water management improvement projects over the next two years. The Federal grants will be combined with local cost-share contributions, making a total of nearly $30 million available to help alleviate the impacts of the drought on communities and agriculture.

Related: Drought Monitor: Improvements dot Four Corners, upper Plains

To support water utilities and households coping with drought in California, USDA Rural Development will provide at least $7 million to address the drought-related needs of water utilities and households.

Finally, the Department of the Interior is announcing $10 million for 10 Wildland Fire Resilient Landscapes Projects. Currently in its first year of funding from Congress, selected projects emphasize collaborative landscape-scale planning across multiple jurisdictions in order to lessen the risk from catastrophic wildfire.

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