Drought Resources

Drought Resources for Organic Operations

As organic operations continue to face unprecedented drought conditions in the western region, CCOF will continue 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: November 22, 2016

Recent developments:

Financial Assistance/Grants/Help

A number of federal programs continue to offer support for farmers and ranchers affected by drought and other natural disasters. Contact your local Farm Service Agency office for more information on these programs: Livestock Indemnity Program, Livestock Forage Program, Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, Tree Assistance Program, Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program.

CCOF Foundation’s Organic Hardship Assistance – The Bricmont Fund: This is the only fund that provides direct financial assistance exclusively to organic producers, processors, and handlers who suffer losses due to extreme hardship. Since 2007, CCOF has distributed hardship assistance funds to offset certification costs for members of the organic community who are in need. This year, applications are due Nov. 23, 2016.

The State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) offers agricultural operations in California up to $200,000 to invest in irrigation systems that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save water. A new round of funding is expected to be open for applications in January 2017. View web page for more information on how to apply and to see a list of upcoming grant application deadlines. This is a very popular program; however, the application requires many technical details, so program managers encourage prospective applicants to attend one of the workshops.

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

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 and the Emergency Watershed Protection Program and links to additional information. 

The CA Department of Community Services and Development offers a range of services to low income families. Programs vary by county. Click here for a map that will take you to a listing of services in your county.

The California Dept. of Housing and Community Development offers a drought housing rental subsidies program for eligible individuals and families in nearly 30 counties. More information on the Drought Housing Rental Subsidies program is available by calling La Cooperativa at 916-388-2228.

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). In 2016, 51 primary and 7 contiguous counties in California have been designated a drought disaster county. Click here for the list of counties and here for a national map of the Secretarial Drought Designations for 2016. Farmers and ranchers in designated counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for an EM loan to help cover part of their actual losses. To verify the deadline for application in your area and to apply, contact your county's FSA office.

Donate Don’t Dump: This statewide gleaning program collects 10-12 million pounds of food from growers and packing houses throughout California and distributes it to food banks. A related program is Farm to Family, which purchases produce that would otherwise go to waste at a reduced rate from growers and packers and distributes it to food banks.

$50,000 Microloan Program through FSA: Microloans are direct farm operating loans designed to meet the needs of smaller operations, including beginning farms, truck farms, CSA farms, and farms using organic and other methods. The maximum amount that can be borrowed increased from $35,000 to $50,000 last year. Learn more about microloans. To apply, contact your local FSA office.

Farm Aid: Family farm disaster fund for farmers and ranchers. List of resources for farmers, or call 1-800-FARM-AID.

Information, Resources, Tools

California Reservoir Level Map - updated daily

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 Assistance: Provides information on a range of state and federal programs

USDA Drought Disaster Resource Page: Provides information on secretarial disaster designations, disaster announcements, and updates.

Hay 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.

U.S. Drought Monitor: Shows a color-coded drought map of the U.S.

An outline of the types of water rights in California is available online.

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

UC Davis Rangeland Watershed LaboratoryManaging 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. Currently, some counties in Oregon, Montana, New York, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah are approved for emergency haying and grazing. 

Scientific Studies

“California Farmers Count Every Drop with Efficient Irrigation Technologies” is a summary of California’s drought situation written by the Acting Director of California’s Climate Sub Hub, Andrew McElrone.

Learn more about USDA’s regional Climate Hubs.

“Inevitable Changes in California’s Water Supply” is an overview of the situation written by UC Davis’s Director of the Center for Watershed Sciences Jay Lund. Dr. Lund predicts that some Delta islands will flood and the San Joaquin Valley will have less irrigated land due to salinization and urbanization.

In related news, the Delta smelt is projected to go extinct within a year or two.

UC Davis researchers have developed a Soil Agricultural Groundwater Banking Index that shows which agricultural lands in California are best suited for groundwater recharge. Find more information on the index and map in the scientific article Soil suitability index identifies potential areas for groundwater banking on agricultural lands, by O’Geen et al. 2015.

A scientific paper written by researchers at Stanford University documents that occurrence of drought years in California has been greater in the past 20 years than in the previous century. Combined with normal fluxes in precipitation, human-caused global warming is increasing probability of drought in the state into the future.

The California Department of Water Resources released a report in November 2014 on groundwater conditions in the state. It documents that groundwater levels have decreased in many basins throughout the state since 2013, that subsidence is occurring in many groundwater basins especially in the southern San Joaquin River and Tulare Lake regions, and acreage of fallowed land.


Whole-Farm Revenue Protection, a new type of crop insurance designed to meet the needs of highly diverse farms, is now offered in all U.S. counties. It is designed for farms with up to $8.5 million in insured revenue including farms growing specialty or organic commodities.

Organic Crop Insurance: Organic crop insurance options continue to expand. Additional crops eligible for organic price elections have been added for the 2016 crop year and more will be added for 2017. As of February 2016, producers are eligible to insure their transitional crop under the contracted price rather than the conventional price.  Contact a local crop insurance agent for more information about organic crop insurance. Utilize the crop insurance agent locator on the Risk Management Agency website to find an insurance agent.


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