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: 9/9/15

Recent developments:

  • Though evidence is mounting that an El Niño is forming, the California State Climatologist warns that the El Niño is not likely to reverse the drought.
  • As of the end of July, 2015, over 70 percent of the state is experiencing an Extreme Drought and over 45 percent is experiencing an Exceptional Drought, as recorded by the National Drought Mitigation Center, U.S. Drought Monitor. The state’s snowpack, which provides much of California’s seasonal water storage, was at critically low levels this year which has resulted in very low inflows to streams and reservoirs during the dry summer months. The reduced inflows caused by the historically low snowpack will result in very low inflows until significant precipitation events occur. Source: State Water Resources Control Board.
  • The White House announced a number of new federal initiatives in June, including
    • Allowance for farmers to exclude yields from exceptionally bad years in calculating their crop insurance coverage.
    • Continued support for the Livestock Forage Program, which is projected to provide $1.2 billion to livestock producers in fiscal year 2015.
    • A Dept. of Labor grant that provides temporary jobs for workers dislocated by the drought.
    • A summer food program that provides school children with nutritious meals during the summer break.
    • Numerous investments in Bureau of Reclamation water management projects.
  • A new preliminary analysis of the economic impacts of the drought by U.C. Davis researchers estimates that in 2015, 564,000 acres of land will be fallowed; livestock and dairy farms will experience direct revenue losses of $350 million; 18,600 full-time, part-time, and seasonal jobs will be lost; and the total economic loss to agriculture will be an estimated $2.7 billion.
  • The California Drought Employment Training Program provides free educational programs to individuals who have lost their jobs or are underemployed as a result of the drought. Participating community college campuses are offering the trainings. Reedley College has an irrigation specialist program starting in fall 2015. Visit their website for more information.
  • CDFA Drought Resources Page: Includes a list of federal and state agencies and various assistance programs.  
  • California Sequía Información y Recursos
  • An outline of the types of water rights in California is available online.

Financial Assistance/Grants/Help

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that 65% of national EQIP funds, equaling $13.7 million, is being reserved for California producers and ranchers to help mitigate the impact of the drought. For more information, visit the California Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) website or contact your local NRCS office.

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.

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 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.

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). 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 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. 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

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 are 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.

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.

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