USDA Secretary Brings Water Assistance on Valley Visit

USDA Provides Water Assistance Aid to 73,000 Rural Californians Impacted by Drought

FARMERSVILLE, Calif., July 18, 2014 -USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced USDA is providing $9.7 million in emergency water assistance to 73,000 residents in 11 California counties experiencing the driest year on record.

“This drought is devastating those who live, work and raise their families in much of rural California,” Vilsack said. “It is threatening the survival of whole communities and livelihoods of folks throughout the state. From Siskiyou County in the north to Kern County in the south, this disaster is crippling communities up and down the 600-mile spine of California.

“The emergency water grants we are announcing today are triple the amount we committed to when President Obama and I visited the state earlier this year,” Vilsack added. “I am proud of the work USDA Rural Development staff in California and Washington, D.C., have done to get this funding to those in need and the work they have done with municipal leaders in these rural communities to help residents, businesses and agricultural producers.”

Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack
Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack

Extreme weather, such as the intense drought occurring in the western United States, is putting a strain on water supplies. The Obama Administration is committed to increasing investments in the nation’s water infrastructure to mitigate the impact of climate change and to ensure that all Americans have adequate, safe and reliable water supplies. The National Climate Assessment released earlier this year illustrates the impact of climate change across the country.

This announcement is part of broader Obama Administration efforts to help those impacted by the drought. Through the National Drought Resilience Partnership, launched as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, federal agencies are working closely with states, local governments, agriculture and other partners on a coordinated response.

The 25 rural California communities are being helped by funding provided through USDA’s Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant (ECWAG) program. This program helps rural communities that have experienced a significant decline in the quantity or quality of drinking water due to an emergency. In January, USDA streamlined the program’s application process to expedite emergency water assistance to communities in need, particularly in drought-impacted areas.

In addition to support from the ECWAG program, USDA is helping rural communities meet their water needs through Water and Waste Disposal loans and grants and Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households (SEARCH) grants. USDA Rural Development has also approved grant funding to establish a revolving fund to provide low-interest loans to rural homeowners for household water wells.

For example, the small community of Cameron Creek Colony in Tulare County is struggling due to severe drought. About 10 percent of its residents have no access to water because their wells have run dry. Others have only intermittent access.

The city of Farmersville, Calif., is receiving a $500,000 ECWAG grant to construct pipelines connecting Cameron Creek Colony to the Farmersville water main and linking residents to the water system. This will provide much-needed relief throughout the community.

The grants announced today are contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of the grant agreement.

Since the start of the Obama Administration, USDA Rural Development has invested more than $310 million to help 345,000 rural Californians receive improved water or wastewater services.

As California suffers through this drought, the Administration has taken action to help those struggling to cope with the hardships it has caused, including:

  • Designated 57 counties as disaster areas, making farmers and ranchers eligible for emergency loans.
  • Targeted $25 million from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help farmers and ranchers implement conservation practices to conserve water, protect fields from erosion and improve access to water for livestock.
  • Invested $5 million in emergency watershed protection.
  • Provided $7.6 million to livestock producers through the cost-sharing Emergency Conservation Program.
  • Invested $750,000 to reduce aquatic weeds clogging irrigation screens, pumps and canals in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River delta.
  • Set aside $3.3 million of a $30 million national investment to mitigate wildfire threats, protect water resources and provide habitat for at-risk species.
  • Made continuing research investments in water conservation and use efficiency, as well as capacity grants for the University of California’s Institute for Water Resources.
  • Established a network of climate hubs, including a sub-hub in Davis, for risk adaptation and mitigation to climate change.
  • President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.

#

UPDATE: ACP Quarantine and Advocacy for Unimpeded Eradication

by Laurie Greene, Editor

CDFA filed a proposed emergency amendment TODAY to expand the ACP quarantine area in response to an “infestation” of the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), Diaphorina citri, detected in the Farmersville/Visalia area (June 4, 2014), Tulare County. One adult female was found in the area. The proposed 14-mile expansion will include the Visalia area, and the state’s vast ACP quarantine will cover 46,544 sq. miles.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross
CDFA Secretary Karen Ross

The regulation defines emergency as” a situation that calls for immediate action to avoid serious harm to the public peace, health, safety, or general welfare.” The government code provides,”if the emergency situation clearly poses such an immediate, serious harm that delaying action to allow public comment would be inconsistent with the public interest, an agency is not required to provide notice.”

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross believes that this emergency clearly poses such an immediate, serious harm that delaying action to give the notice would be inconsistent with the public interest. Therefore, Ross proposed that the CDFA Director may adopt reasonably necessary measures such as bypassing the mandatory notice five working days prior to emergency action in order to carry out emergency provisions. Additionally, she requested that the Director be permitted to establish, maintain, and enforce quarantine, eradication, and such other regulations necessary to circumscribe and exterminate or prevent the spread of any pest which is described in the code.

This comes after the California Citrus Industry’s recent backlash against the Executive Committee of the California Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee’s proposed easing of the state’s ACP quarantine and eradication efforts.

Joel Nelsen, CA Citrus Mutual President
Joel Nelsen, CA Citrus Mutual President

And, while CDFA uses the word, “infestation”, Joel Nelsen, President of California Citrus Mutual, commented at the recent United Fresh Convention in Chicago, “There were two more ACP finds found in the northeast part of Tulare County. They were individual finds. Intensive trapping and tapping on the trees, looking for the ACP, hasn’t found any more. So one would argue that we’ve got a population—given the finds in the last year—but we’re still talking single digits.” Nelsen believes this demonstrates the eradication programs are working. “We’re supposed to find the ACP before finds a commercial citrus industry, and we’re doing that.”

Nelsen said the Executive Committee’s recent proposal to significantly modify the program was, “based upon some subjective analysis by a team of scientists who in fact believe that there’s more out there than what we can find.”

“So,” he continued, “we’re obligated to prove a negative; and as long as we do the intensive trapping program, as long as we continue the mandated treatment program, as long as we’re aggressively looking for the Asian citrus psyllid—I don’t see how, and industry doesn’t buy into the fact, you have an endemic population. We’re not finding them in volume; everything is isolated.”

“So, when the industry first became aware of this possible change in the treatment zones of the quarantine mandates, the industry challenged CDFA.”

Now, not only does the ACP program remain intact, but TODAY, CDFA Secretary Ross proposed measures for an unhindered and  immediate eradication response by CDFA to ACP discoveries.

Featured Photo Credit: Ted Batkin, Citrus Research Board, “Invasive Pests in California” 1/10.