Farmers hurting from California drought get help from Feds



IMPERIAL COUNTY (CNN) – The federal government is reaching out to help farmers suffering from the drought in California.

The governor has asked all Californians to conserve their water.

“Our growers are doing everything they can to conserve water,” said Linsey Dale of the Imperial County Farm Bureau. “We are currently under an equitable distribution that the IID (Imperial Irrigation District) has imposed where we are only allotted a certain amount of water per acre to grow the crops.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recently stepped up to help farmers affected by this year’s lack of rainfall.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this week that $20 million will be available to farmers for California conservation efforts.

Dale says while that money is necessary, the need is far greater in other areas of the Golden State.

“Preference will be going to areas like the Central Valley, where they are in zero allotment,” she said. “They have no water right now. They’re relying on ground water, and so I believe most of that money will probably go to them. But our growers will continue to apply for what they can, because we do have issues here. We do have to conserve our water, and we do have to ensure our water is the best quality leaving the fields.”

Last year, California only saw about 7 and one-half inches of rain.

That’s the lowest amount in 119 years of record keeping.

That is why Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency last month, and asked all Californians to voluntarily reduce water use by 20 percent.

“We are very limited here in Imperial County,” said Dale, “where we do produce, along with Yuma, most of the winter vegetables. However we have a very low population, and not a whole lot of support politically. And so we are always nervous about the threat of outside agencies taking our water. But we do feel we’re using it in the most beneficial use of that water.”

Most of the state is operating in crisis mode, but the Imperial Valley has a unique situation because its water comes from the Colorado River.

“We are concerned for our neighboring growers in the Central Valley in areas where their water has been cut to zero,” she said. “We definitely have compassion and concern for what they will be doing in the future, and how they will get their water supply as well.”

The shortage is so severe in some places, the California Department of Public Health says water supplies could go completely dry within the next few months.