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: 12/18/14

Recent developments:

  • Despite recent rainstorms across the state, California is still considered to be in drought.
  • California’s Department of Water Management (DWR) has released a report, Public Update for Drought Response. It documents the toll that the drought is taking on the state’s groundwater supplies and reports that the state’s major reservoirs held only 60% of average storage as of Sept. 30, 2014, and are at only 41% of capacity.
  • In September, Governor Jerry Brown signed three bills that collectively comprise the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, the first legislation aimed at regulating groundwater in the state.
  • January 30, 2015, has been set as the deadline for the federal Livestock Indemnity Program, Livestock Forage Program, and the Tree Assistance Program. These programs are administered by the Farm Service Agency. Contact your local FSA office for more information.
  • Whole-Farm Revenue Protection, a new type of crop insurance designed to meet the needs of highly diverse farms, is open for signups for 2015. In California, farms in Butte, Fresno, Kern, Mendocino, Monterey, Riverside, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Sonoma, Tulare, Ventura, Yolo, and Yuba counties are be eligible for the new type of insurance. You can find more information on the Risk Management Agency website.
  • 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. To apply, contact your local FSA office.

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: Starting in 2014, the 5% surcharge on organic crop insurance was dropped and a wider range of organic crops are now eligible for coverage. Organic producers have expanded crop insurance options, something to keep in mind when planning for next year. Sign-up periods have not yet been announced for 2015; we will update this information when new dates are announced. Or, contact a local crop insurance agent for more information about the program. A list of crop insurance agents is available at the Risk Management Agency website.



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