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: 4/6/15

Recent developments:

  • California Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order April 1, 2015, outlining mandatory actions to reduce water use across the state. For the first time in the state’s history, the governor is requiring the State Water Resources Control Board to cut water use in cities and towns by 25%. Agricultural water users will be required to increase water use reporting to the state. Agriculture water districts are required to enhance their reporting to the state. Read the governor’s press release for more information on the executive order.
  • Stating “We're not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we're losing the creek too,” NASA senior water scientist Jay Famiglietti published an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times noting that the state’s reservoirs only contain a year’s worth of water and calling for increased water rationing and other measures.
  • Despite winter rain and snow storms across the state, California is still considered to be in drought. California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) reports that the water content of the Sierra Nevada snowpack is historically low for this time of year and that drought is a virtual certainty for 2015. Central Valley Project agricultural water deliveries are set at 0% of contracted amounts. However, storm runoff stored in the San Luis Reservoir made it possible for State Water Project deliveries to be increased in March to 20% (up from 15% in January) of most long-term contractors’ amounts.
  • In February, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released $50 million for drought relief projects in the western U.S., including almost $20 million for California’s Central Valley Project. Funds will be spent on work in the Delta, groundwater banking, hatcheries, and water conservation efforts.
  • 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.
  • California Sequía Información y Recursos

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.

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

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). On February 4, 2015, USDA designated 55 counties as primary natural disaster areas due to the drought as well as the three additional California counties that are contiguous to them. 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 excess food from growers and packing houses throughout California and distributes it to food banks. A related program is Farm to Family, which purchases fresh produce at a reduced rate from growers and packers. Visit the California Foodlink website for more information on how to participate.

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

$50,000 Microloan Program through FSA: Microloans are direct farm operating loans designed to meet the needs of smaller operations. 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.

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 resources for farmers and ranchers

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

Monterey County Cooperative Extension has posted slides from its 2015 Irrigation and Nutrient meeting online.

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 Western Region: Shows a color-coded drought map.

View the current map of secretarial drought designations in the U.S.

UC Cooperative Extension: 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. 

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, no counties in California have been approved for emergency haying and grazing. 

Scientific Studies

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.

A UC Davis report released in July 2014 revised previous estimates and projected 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.


Whole-Farm Revenue Protection, a new type of crop insurance designed to meet the needs of highly diverse farms, was offered on a pilot basis in California to farms in Butte, Fresno, Kern, Mendocino, Monterey, Riverside, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Sonoma, Tulare, Ventura, Yolo, and Yuba counties. In the future, farmers in more areas may be eligible for this coverage. You can find more information about this program on the Risk Management Agency website.

Crop Insurance Sign-Ups: 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 now have expanded crop insurance options. Contact a local crop insurance agent for more information about organic crop insurance. 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