President Barack Obama will announce a promise to give California farmers tens of millions of dollars in aid within the next 60 days, to help them recover from damages caused by what some say is the worst California drought in 100 years. Farmers are warning that thousands of seasonal workers could find themselves without jobs this summer, as there will no crops to harvest.
The package includes $100 million from the recently passed farm bill allotted to cover loss of livestock. Obama is also set to announce a plan to expedite assistance to the state, and draw connections between conditions in California and climate change. Reuters reports:
John Holdren, Obama's top adviser on science and technology, said the global climate has been so extensively impacted by "the human-caused buildup of greenhouse gases that weather practically everywhere is being influenced by climate change." He said the California drought is probably the strongest of the past 500 years. "They've always had droughts in the American West of course, but now the severe ones are getting more frequent, they're getting longer and they're getting drier," he told reporters on a conference call.
Obama will call on affected areas to ease water consumption, and offer $15 million dollars in aid to help farmers figure out sustainable irrigation use practices, in addition to $3 million in Emergency Water Assistance Grants for rural areas especially affected by the drought, and $5 million from the Emergency Watershed Protection Program to help protect vulnerable soil. California farmers will not receive water diverted from the State Water Project, they recently learned, as the budget focuses on long-term solutions.
Republicans are in favor of stopping environmental practices in order to find a quick fix for the problem, according to the Associated Press:
The Republican-controlled House recently voted to address the drought by rolling back environmental protections and temporarily halting the restoration of a dried-up stretch of the San Joaquin River, work that is designed to restore historic salmon runs. Farmers would prefer to have the water diverted to their crops instead. Boehner recently showed his support for the bill by visiting a dusty field in Bakersfield and saying fish shouldn't be favored over people.
Obviously, this isn't the best solution. Democrats threatened to veto the bill because it wouldn't really help all that much and would undo years of conservation efforts. The partisan battle over California's drought is, according to some analysts, taking center stage, with Republicans using the devastation to attempt to shutter Democrat -led environmental initiatives. Political scientist John Pitney told CBS that "this is a partisan water war. The Republicans are siding with farmers. The governor is siding with environmental interests."
Hopefully there will be a way to ease California's crisis without halting environmental progress. But according to National Geographic, we might not actually be able to do anything to keep the drought from lasting another 200 years:
As a paleoclimatologist, B. Lynn Ingram takes the long view, examining tree rings and microorganisms in ocean sediment to identify temperatures and dry periods of the past millennium. Her work suggests that droughts are nothing new to California. "During the medieval period, there was over a century of drought in the Southwest and California. The past repeats itself," says Ingram, who is co-author of The West Without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and Other Climate Clues Tell Us About Tomorrow. Indeed, Ingram believes the 20th century may have been a wet anomaly.
We're pretty sure all sides would agree that would be a pretty big bummer.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.