Drought Resources

Drought Resources for Organic Operations

As organic operations face unprecedented drought conditions in the western region in 2014, CCOF is trying to help by offering drought resources and ways for organic operations to support each other.

We are frequently updating this page as more information and resources become available. LAST UPDATE: 9/18/14

Recent developments:

  • While the deadline to apply for the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) has passed, ELAP will accept applications through Nov. 1, 2014, to reimburse livestock operations for costs associated with water hauling. Eligible livestock were grazed on pasture that had adequate livestock watering systems in place prior to the drought and do not typically require producers to haul water. Livestock kept in feedlots are not eligible. Costs associated with water transportation equipment and labor may be eligible for reimbursement but not the cost of water itself. Contact your local FSA office for further information.
  • UC Davis researchers revised their previous estimates upward and announced that the drought will cause $2.2 billion in economic losses and 17,000 lost jobs. The predicted 33% reduction in surface water deliveries is being compensated for by increased groundwater pumping, which is likely to cause wells in the Tulare Basin to run dry. The drought is expected to continue through 2015. The researchers issued a set of policy recommendations in their revised report, including establish groundwater management policies; develop a streamlined Environmental Impact Report for water transfers; establish a Water Trade Clearing House; link groundwater use to financial costs; and further develop technology to remotely sense water use. This blog entry contains more information and a link to the full report.
  • USDA issued a 12-week progress report on disaster assistance processed since farm bill-funded programs were initiated in mid-April. Over $1.2 billion in disaster payments were processed between April 15-July 8 to farmers and ranchers who experienced losses due to drought, blizzards, and other severe weather conditions.
  • California Sequía Información y Recursos

Financial Assistance/Grants/Help

View the current list of designated drought disaster counties in the U.S. Agricultural operators in all counties designated as natural disaster areas may qualify for low interest emergency (EM) loans of up to $500,000 through the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Farmers and ranchers in designated counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for the EM loan to help cover part of their actual losses. To verify the deadline for application in your area, contact your county's FSA office.

NRCS Drought Conservation Assistance to California Farmers and Ranchers: Find out how to write a conservation plan that will be the basis for applying for assistance. The site also provides information on applying for EQIP Drought Response Initiative funds and eligibility for irrigated cropland and grazing lands assistance (see Application Screening Worksheets). Applications will be accepted on a continuous basis.

Farm Aid: Disaster Assistance for Farmers

California Foodlink: Source of healthy food for those needing a little help.

The CA Department of Community Services and Development provides funding to four regional Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Agencies which provide assistance to farmworkers. Services may include rental assistance, employment services, and food/nutritional services. En español.

$35,000 Microloan Program through FSA: Microloans are direct farm operating loans designed to meet the needs of smaller operations. Up to $35,000 can be borrowed. Learn more about microloans from FSA California State Executive Director Val Dolcini. To apply, contact your local FSA office.

A Temporary Variance has been approved by the National Organic Program for organic livestock producers.

Farm Service Agency Livestock Forage Disaster Program Eligibility Tool: Use this tool to find out if you are eligible for livestock forage disaster assistance.

Information, Resources, Tools

CDFA Drought Resources Page: Includes information in Spanish and a list of federal and state agencies and various assistance programs. En español.

USDA Drought Programs and AssistanceHay Net, an internet-based service allowing farmers and ranchers to share "Need Hay" ads and "Have Hay" ads, has been expanded to allow producers to list a need for grazing acres or availability of acres for grazing. The site also provides information on a range of state and federal programs.

U.S. Drought Monitor Western Region: Shows a color-coded drought map.

UC Cooperative Extension: The latest research-based information on weathering a drought (posted March 17, 2014). Also, view the list of upcoming Cooperative Extension drought-related events.

Do you have crop or processing wastes that could feed organic livestock? Post a free classified with us and help your fellow organic producers. Read our Call to Action posting.

UC Davis Rangeland Watershed Laboratory: Managing for Drought - Information on preparing for the various stages of drought.

Emergency Haying and Grazing: This program allows haying and grazing by producers with CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) contracts, though these activities can only take place outside of the Primary Nesting Season, which is April 1-July 1, 2014. As of now, Monterey County has been approved for emergency haying and Glenn, San Luis Obispo, Siskiyou, and Yolo counties have been approved for emergency haying and grazing. Emergency haying and grazing must be approved by your county FSA office in advance.

Livestock producers have been exploring sprouted fodder as an alternative livestock feed that greatly reduces the amount of water used compared with field production. Read an overview of the process. Note that certified organic livestock and poultry producers must use certified organic seed in producing their sprouted fodder. A UC Extension Specialist in alfalfa and forage crops systems has written an article on “hydroponic forage” production and takes a more critical approach to the idea. The comments to this article provide a detailed overview of the pluses and minuses of the system.


Crop Insurance Sign-Ups: Sign-ups for crop insurance through the Risk Management Agency (RMA) have ended for the year; however, as noted in this CCOF blog entry, the 5% surcharge on organic crop insurance has been dropped and a wider range of organic crops are now eligible for coverage. Organic producers now have expanded crop insurance options, something to keep in mind when planning for next year. Read this RMA press release on other changes in organic crop insurance and consult this page of resources on organic crop insurance.

A new insurance product, Whole-Farm Revenue Protection, is expected to be offered next year in all states and counties where Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) and Adjusted Gross Revenue – Lite (AGR LITE) is currently being offered. In California, farms in Butte, Yolo, Yuba, Santa Barbara, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties will be eligible. Whole-Farm Revenue Protection will allow farmers to insure the value of all their crops and will include a premium discount for farmers who diversify the crops they grow. Growers who direct market will also be able to cover costs associated with marketing product, including washing, trimming, and packaging. For more information, read this USDA blog on the new type of crop insurance. We will post additional details once they have been released.


  1. Groundwater Storage and Delivery Infrastructure in California
  2. Surface Water Storage and Delivery Infrastructure in California