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$20 Million in Aid to Drought Stricken CA Farmers

Much needed help may soon come to Valley Farmers.  State and federal officials announced $20 million in funding for drought relief, but is the help enough?

The announcement came Tuesday morning.  The federal government will shell out $20 million in aid to drown stricken California farmers.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says, "It'll be focused on improving irrigation efficiency, providing producers resources to stabilize fallowed ground that can't be farmed and to assist with watering facilities and grazing."

The money will come in the form of grants on a priority basis.  Those most severely affected will have the best shot. Valley farmers say $20 million is merely a drop in the bucket.

Fresno County grape grower Alan Kasparian says, " at last count there's approximately 85,000 growers in the state of California, so if you do the math $20 million doesn't really go very far."

Kasparian says he may apply for a piece of the money.  He needs to fix s broken well to feed his crops, but will be out thousands and thousands of dollars if come mid-season, the water runs dry.

"I'm not alone.  Other growers are going to be faced with 'do I plant or don't plant with the deadlines come because I may not have water'."

Congressman Jim Costa says the funding is a good first step.

Jim Costa (D-Fresno)says, "Every drop of water is precious, but in years like this it could be the difference in keeping employees on the payroll and forcing them to let them go."

But many growers aren't sure it's anything more than a small band-aid.

Fresno County grower Keith Nilmeier says, "That's short term fixes.  It's going to get us through the immediate crunch.  We have to start thinking not two to five years.  We need to be thinking 30 to 50 years down the road."

The deadline to apply for funding is March 3rd. To learn more about the aid, or to apply, visit the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service at www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov.
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