Farm Press Blog

Obama administration misses boat on drought assistance

  • The Obama administration's drought financial assistance package contains nearly nothing for crop growers. It is a slap in the face.


President Obama’s visit to California’s Central Valley Feb. 14 gave the nation’s chief executive a prime opportunity to hear from a selected few in agriculture impacted by the state’s intensifying drought.

The president’s visit, in itself, brought the severity of the drought to the attention of the American people which is a positive.

As the president made his rounds, a news release from USDA outlined the administration’s new federal financial assistance package to California agriculture and other sectors plagued by the worsening drought.

The cornerstone of the government’s plan is $100 million in livestock disaster assistance through the new 2014 farm bill’s livestock forage disaster program. Livestock producers can apply for financial assistance for drought-related losses incurred over the last three years.

Producers could receive up to $100 million for losses this year alone, and up to $50 million for several years prior.

I have no beef with the administration’s livestock assistance package. Cattle and calves generated $3.3 billion in cash receipts in California in 2012, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Yet it was what the USDA release did not say which was a slap in the face for crop producers. There was nothing, nada, diddly squat in the assistance package, for example, for annual or permanent crop producers.

I’m sure this ‘oversight’ was especially appreciated by growers on the West Side (and others across the state) who have pulled orchards, fallowed fields, and watched their families’ futures take a financial whacking or evaporate into thin air.

Yep, the government’s financial assistance plan has nothing to assist the drought-plagued $6.7 billion tree nut industry (walnuts, almonds, and pistachios); or the $4.5 billion grape industry (wine, table, and raisin grapes).

To be fair, the USDA plan includes $5 million for California through the USDA’s environmental quality incentives program, plus $5 million in emergency watershed protection program assistance in targeted conservation assistance in the worst hit areas. A few of these ‘peanut dollars’ could be available for non-livestock producers.   

This also does not mean that future assistance for crops is not in the government’s tea leaves.

Speaking of nut crops, how is the drought impacting the pistachio industry? A crowd gathered at the World Ag Expo Water Forum Feb. 13 to hear numerous personal stories and insight on the drought from growers, plus city and water leaders.

Tulare County pistachio grower Mark Watte shared how his nut operation is affected by the drought. With surface water deliveries at zero, Watte is forced to turn totally to groundwater for the trees.

Since groundwater contains more sand than surface water, the sand is damaging his well pumps. Also, the water level is dropping below the pump levels. He is not alone.

Watte told the crowd, “Pumping repair companies are months behind (in availability)…Our well drillers are a year behind (in availability).”

He concluded, “We are not on a sustainable path here.”

This is a story President Obama should have heard.

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

Westside Farmer (not verified)
on Feb 19, 2014

Bingo! Obamas visit was nothing more than another dog and pony show promoting his climate change and global warming based agenda to save the earth. Oh yeah, he did point out these were the reasons for our drought. Maybe he has never heard or read anything about the evolution of the earth and the history of its climate changes over millions of years. But why would he? I'm sure he got all of his facts from the likes of people like Al Gore or his own Administrative Scientific Adviser who actually suggested Ca. doesn't need more water storage because we haven't even filled our existing lakes and reservoirs! Really? It's hard to fill them when they keep using vast amounts of water to flush the sewage from the delta instead of demanding the tertiary treatment needed to remove the vast amounts of toxins, urban pesticides, and even estrogen that flow into it everyday. What a ridiculous idea, how could the Democrats get reelected if they even suggested such a costly project on their native constituents of the glory land west of the San Jouaquin Valley that is home of the greenies who couldn't imagagine that they could possibly be contributing to the decline of the delta ecosystem. How could they, they're GREEN!!! I realize I got off onto a bit off a rant but facing a zero allocation and spending many a sleepless nights trying to figure out how to survive this year is extremely frustrating when our politicians continue to ignore and circumvent the real solutions to California's water problems. So long as every statement that Feinstein,Boxer,Costa and and any other Democrat makes pledging relief or help with water issues contains the words "within the law" nothing will be done because they know the ESA will trump all efforts for a solution and the environs will always win. With that being said, for the record I am a third generation farmer farming in Westlands Water District. I do not support the political views of this district. I not support financially or otherwise any of the lying,self serving Democrats of this state. I will fight to save my farm and if I lose, at least I can hold my head up with dignity for trying. It is the one thing they can not take from us I do not possess .

the municipalities

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