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Drought Determination

To declare a drought, several steps are taken in Sonoma and Marin Counties. The Agricultural Commissioners in one or both counties will request the declaration of a drought from the state. Then, working with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Petaluma, the local county committee begins the process of determining what percentage of losses occurred due to the drought.

When determining percent forage loss, the UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Farm Advisor, Agricultural Commissioner’s offices and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) are asked to assess loss value. The loss value is the difference between potential forage to actual forage produced that year expressed as a percentage. Over 50% loss of forage production triggers the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP).

In order to obtain drought relief assistance, ranchers must have signed up for the NAP with FSA the previous year. The NAP is administered by USDA FSA and provides payments for crop or grazing feed losses that are not covered by a federal crop insurance program. Ranchers who enroll in NAP receive financial assistance when rangeland forage reductions exceed 50% due to drought. Because precipitation in California increases from south to north and with elevation, the frequency of years with forage production less than 50% of average varies greatly across the state’s Mediterranean-type rangelands.

Loss determination is assessed from rancher surveys and by UCCE on the ground measurements. UCCE Sonoma wants to establish several, regional forage monitoring sites. Ranchers interested in providing a site, should contact Stephanie Larson at 707-565-2621 or slarson@ucdavis.edu

Cattle Graze near Santa Rosa