"We've been living off the snowpack from a couple of seasons ago. It has become a very serious issue and probably exacerbated some of the other issues we are seeing, such as the (wildland) fires."
That’s what Val Dolcini, executive director of the U.S. Farm Service Agency in California, told The Record as federal farm officials declared nearly the entire state of California as a drought disaster area.
The declaration marks the first time Dolcini had seen a disaster declaration covering the majority of the state. San Francisco is the only county excluded for the declaration.
Dolcini said that securing access to water for crops and livestock has been a top concern for producers of all types of crops and commodities throughout the state.
The federal drought declaration gives farmers and ranchers access to low-interest emergency loans. Dolcini advises that he will be able to gauge how many producers will need help, but the agency is already active in the hardest-hit areas where emergencies had been declared earlier this year.
"We've been working with the livestock industry, who have been suffering from severe drought conditions on the Central Coast," he said.
According to the USDA, more than 1,000 counties across the country have been declared as primary drought designations as of Aug. 28. Most of the drought declarations are in the western half of the United States. See the map of 2013 Secretarial Drought Designations here.