(Updates with $1 billion climate fund)
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON Feb 14 President Barack Obama will
pledge on Friday to speed federal assistance to help California
recover from a crippling drought that is threatening the
critical agriculture industry in the No. 1 farm state.
On a visit to Fresno, California, Obama will promise to make
available within 60 days up to $100 million in aid to help
California farmers who lost livestock due to drought conditions.
For livestock producers across the country, about $1 billion
will be available for them.
The assistance was contained in a $956 billion farm bill
that Congress passed and he signed last week. Separately, the
administration said it plans new funding to address the effects
of climate change.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters in a
preview of the announcement that Obama will offer "a message of
hope and a message that the federal government will do all it
can to try to alleviate some of the stress connected with this
During his remarks, Obama will draw a connection between
what is being called the worst California drought in 100 years
and global warming.
Given congressional gridlock over the issue, Obama may be
building a case to impose some measures this year against
climate change via executive order, part of an effort to take
actions where he can with or without congressional approval.
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.
Beyond California's drought, Obama's 2015 budget proposal,
due in March, will include $1 billion to help communities
prepare for climate change, the White House said.
The so-called Climate Resilience Fund will pay for research
on climate change and fund technologies and infrastructure to
blunt its impact on communities.
"The science is clear that weather practically everywhere is
being influenced by climate change," White House spokesman Jay
Carney said on Friday.
Obama is traveling to California to meet Jordan's King
Abdullah on Friday night at Sunnylands, a desert retreat in
Rancho Mirage. The Valentine Day's summit is expected to include
California is coming off its driest year on record and a
recent winter storm did little to dull the impact of the drought
in the state that produces half the country's fruits and
vegetables. A recent drought monitor said 91.6 percent of the
state is experiencing severe to exceptional drought.
Obama will announce $15 million in aid to help farmers and
ranchers implement water conservation practices. This includes
$5 million for California and $10 million for hard-hit areas in
Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado and New Mexico.
Among other measures, Obama will said he has directed
federal facilities in California to take steps to immediately
curb water use, including a moratorium on new landscaping
projects that are not deemed essential.
California Governor Jerry Brown made a similar directive to
state agencies last month in declaring a drought emergency.
Obama will stay on at Sunnylands for the long holiday
weekend to play golf.
The president and King Abdullah, who spent much of the week
in Washington meeting various U.S. officials, are to discuss
efforts to bring a negotiated end to the civil war in Syria.
Jordan has absorbed many thousands of refugees from the Syrian
(Reporting By Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Doina
Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Alden Bentley)