White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest addressed the drought during a media briefing aboard Air Force One today, as President Obama headed to the tornado zone in Arkansas.
The transcript from the White House:
MR. EARNEST: I do have a few things at the top that I just wanted to make you aware of. So I want to start with mentioning the President’s last trip to California. It included a stop at a farm in the Central Valley, where the President talked about efforts underway by the federal government, in coordination with state and local officials, to help local residents deal with the drought. So there’s a couple of statistics I want to read off about this.
Over the last few months, the United States Department of Agriculture has declared 57 countries in California as primary natural disaster areas due to drought, making farmers and ranchers in those communities eligible for assistance through emergency loans. The USDA has announced $15 million in funding to help farmers and ranchers in the most extreme and exceptional drought areas implement conservation practices that conserves scarce water resources, reduce wind erosion on drought-impacted fields, and improve livestock access to water; $100 million in the livestock disaster assistance for California producers.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is also making $3 million in grants available to help rural communities that are experiencing a significant decline in the quality or quantity of drinking water due to the drought. $60 million has been made available to food banks in the state of California to help families that may be negatively affected by the drought.
In addition to all of that, the White House, the governor’s office, federal agencies and California state agencies are coordinating in real time with weekly meetings on water operations and the economic impacts of the drought. In addition to that, the Bureau of Reclamation is coordinating daily with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fishery Service, the California Departments of Water Resources and Fish and Wildlife, federal and state water contractors, and the California State Water Resources Board to manage scarce water resources through the remainder of 2014.
I only mention all of this to underscore to you that the federal government and the Obama administration in particular remains committed to working closely with state and local officials in California to help them deal with the drought.