California Drought Press Call by Obama Science Adviser & Agriculture Secretary 2/13/14

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This is the White House transcript of a press call held on Thursday evening, Feb. 13, ahead of President Obama's trip to California to check on the extreme drought and discuss a package of assistance …

This is the White House transcript of a press call held on Thursday evening, Feb. 13, ahead of President Obama's trip to California to check on the extreme drought and discuss a package of assistance and the relevance of greenhouse-driven global warming.

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  • 1. Transcript  provided  by  OSTP       THE  WHITE  HOUSE     Office  of  the  Press  Secretary   ________________________________________________________________________________________________   Embargoed  Until  6:00  A.M.  EST  Friday,  February  14,  2014       PRESS  BRIEFING   BY  SECRETARY  OF  AGRICULTURE  TOM  VILSACK   AND  ASSISTANT  TO  THE  PRESIDENT  FOR  SCIENCE  AND  TECHNOLOGY   DR.  JOHN  HOLDREN   ON  THE  PRESIDENT’S  TRIP  TO  FRESNO,  CALIFORNIA     Via  Conference  Call       6:31  P.M.  EST                    MR.  LEHRICH:    Hey,  everybody,  thanks  for  joining  us  today.    I  hope  those  of  you   who  are  on  the  East  Coast  are  staying  warm  and  dry.    As  a  reminder,  this  call  is   embargoed  until  6:00  a.m.  tomorrow  morning,  which  means  it’s  not  in  tomorrow’s   newspapers  but  can  be  online  at  6:00  a.m.  Eastern  tomorrowmorning.    The  call  will   be  on  the  record  with  that  embargo.                  As  you  know,  the  President  will  be  in  the  Fresno,  California  area  tomorrow,   where  he’ll  be  talking  about  the  severe  droughts  that  are  affecting  much  of   California.    To  talk  about  some  of  the  new  announcements  the  President  will   have  tomorrow  and  related  issues  we’ve  got  Secretary  of  Agriculture  Tom  Vilsack   and  Dr.  John  Holdren,  who  is  the  Director  of  the  White  House  Office  of  Science  and   Technology  Policy,  and  is  going  to  talk  to  you  about  some  of  the  science  behind  the   weather  we’re  seeing  here.                So,  with  that,  I  will  turn  it  over  to  Secretary  Vilsack.                SECRETARY  VILSACK:    Matt,  thank  you  very  much.    And  thanks  to  everybody  on   the  call.    And  certainly  thanks  to  John  Holdren  for  doing  this  as  well.    Let  me  just   preview  for  you  the  President’s  focus  on  this  California  drought  situation,  which  is   really  impacting  California  with  its  worst  drought  in  over  a  hundred  years,  and  it’s   also  impacting  obviously  other  states  as  well.                Tomorrow  the  President  will  meet  with  producers  and  those  who  have  been   impacted  and  affected  by  the  drought.    He’ll  have  an  opportunity  to  observe  the  
  • 2. impacts  on  the  ground,  and  he’ll  I  think  offer  a  message  of  hope  and  a  message  that   the  federal  government  will  do  all  that  it  can  to  try  to  alleviate  some  of  the  stress   connected  with  this  drought.                The  President,  last  week  in  Michigan,  signed  the  2014  Agricultural  Act,  which  is   the  farm  bill,  and  in  the  farm  bill  it  restored  disaster  assistance  for  livestock   producers  which  had  been  dormant  since  October  of  2011.    The  President  will  direct   the  Department  of  Agriculture  to  accelerate  in  an  historic  effort  to  get  the  disaster   programs  now  authorized  under  the  farm  bill  to  a  point  where  farmers  and   producers  in  California  and  across  the  country  will  be  able  to  apply  for  disaster   assistance.                Normally,  this  process  takes  anywhere  from  six  to  eight  months.    The  President  is   going  to  direct  us  to  get  it  done  within  60  days  so  that  within  60  days,  by  April   15th  or  there  abouts,  farmers  and  producers  will  be  able  to  make  applications  for   livestock  assistance  and  should  receive  checks  shortly  thereafter.                This  will  not  only  impact  folks  in  California  but  it  will  also  have  the  opportunity  to   provide  help  and  assistance  to  producers  in  the  Dakotas  who  suffered  from  historic   snowstorms  last  fall,  and  for  those  who  suffered  through  the  2012  droughts  across   the  country  and  other  isolated  situations.                We  anticipate  and  expect  that  with  this  announcement  that  once  applications  are   filed  and  money  distributed,  it  will  mean  somewhere  in  the  neighborhood  of  $100   million  of  assistance  to  California  producers  and  probably  likely  nearly  a  billion   dollars  of  assistance  to  producers  across  the  country.                The  President  is  also  going  to  announce  additional  conservation  assistance  at  a   time  when  water  is  scarce  and  when  livestock  producers  are  challenged,  and  with   those  who  are  faced  with  drought  conditions  on  their  land  and  the  possibility  of   losing  very  precious  soil.    The  President  will  be  announcing  an  additional  $15   million  in  targeted  conservation  assistance  for  those  communities  and  areas  that   have  been  most  affected  by  drought.    Five  million  dollars  of  that  will  be  directed  to   California.    This  is  in  addition  to  the  $20  million  that  was  announced  last  week.    An   additional  $10  million  will  then  be  given  and  made  available  to  producers  in  Texas,   Oklahoma,  Nebraska,  Colorado  and  New  Mexico.    These  resources  will  be  above  and   beyond  what  normally  these  states  have  received  and  these  producers  would   receive  for  assistance.                The  President  will  also  announce  an  additional  $5  million  in  targeted  emergency   watershed  protection  -­‐-­‐  I  should  back  up  and  indicate  that  the  $15  million  that’s   being  announced  in  targeted  conservation  assistance  is  really  designed  to  provide   opportunities  for  producers  to  conserve  more  effectively  their  water  resources,  to   utilize  the  money  to  impact  and  reduce  soil  erosion  as  a  result  of  the  drought,  and   potentially  use  the  proceeds  to  improve  livestock  access  to  water.      
  • 3.          Five  million  dollars  in  targeted  emergency  watershed  protection  assistance  will   also  be  announced  to  California,  and  this  is  designed  to  specifically  stabilize  stream   banks,  to  replant  upland  strips  that  have  been  stripped  of  their  stations  as  a  result  of   the  drought.    This  is  also  a  soil  conservation  and  water  quality  initiative.                In  addition,  we  recognize  -­‐-­‐  the  President  definitely  recognizes  that  droughts  not   only  impact  producers  but  also  impacts  the  families  of  those  who  work  in  these   orchards  and  with  these  growers  and  producers.    A  lot  of  folks  will  not  be  employed,   or  if  they’re  employed,  they  won’t  work  the  number  of  hours  that  they  would   normally  work.    So  we’re  going  to  make  sure  that  we  provide  assistance  and  help  to   those  who  might  need  the  help  of  food  banks  to  be  able  to  provide  food  for  their   families.  Sixty  million  dollars  will  be  made  available  to  food  banks  in  the  state  of   California  to  help  families  who  have  been  economically  impacted  by  the  drought.                  And  as  summer  approaches,  we  realize  that  it  may  be  a  challenge  for  children  to   have  access  to  meals,  and  so  we  will  be  working  with  the  state  of  California  and  the   Department  of  Agriculture  to  establish  600  additional  summer  meal  sites  to  make   sure  that  youngsters  in  this  state  who  have  been  impacted  in  drought-­‐stricken  areas   will  have  some  assistance  and  some  help  during  the  summer  months.                The  President  is  also  going  to  follow  the  lead  of  Governor  Brown  in  California   when  he  declared  state  agencies  to  focus  on  drought  emergency  relief  last   month.    Governor  Brown  basically  encouraged  those  in  California  to  utilize  water   more  effectively  and  efficiently.    The  President  will  direct  tomorrowfederal  facilities   which  are  located  in  California  to  immediately  curb  water  use,  including  a   moratorium  on  water  usage  for  new  and  nonessential  landscaping  projects,  to   redouble  our  efforts  to  look  at  longer-­‐term  water  use  reduction  operations  and   technologies  at  federal  facilities.                And  the  President  will  direct  the  Department  of  Interior  to  continue  to  take   executive  action  to  work  with  water  contractors  and  communities  to  speed  up   changes  in  -­‐-­‐  obviously  to  maintain  important  environmental  safeguards,  but  to   make  sure  that  key  water  projects  that  could  be  encouraged  and  moved  along  are   done  so.    NOAA,  EPA,  the  Bureau  of  Reclamation,  Fish  and  Wildlife  Services  will  be   working  daily  with  their  state  counterparts  to  try  to  make  sure  that  everything  that   can  be  done  to  move  water  projects  forward  is  being  done  in  an  effective  and   efficient  way.                And  we’ll  obviously  continue  to  invest  in  climate  resilience.    The  President  has   been  very  focused  on  it,  directing  these  agencies  to  be  looking  at  this.    The  USDA   announced  that  there  is  a  climate  change  hub,  one  of  which  -­‐-­‐  sub-­‐hub  will  be   located  in  Davis,  California.    That  sub-­‐hub  will  be  doing  research  and  assessing  the   vulnerabilities  specifically  of  California  to  the  change  in  climate.    The  President’s   2015  budget  will  include  additional  resources  for  a  climate  resilience  fund.      
  • 4.          So  these  steps  are  being  taken  in  addition  to  the  steps  that  have  been  taken  and   announced  last  week  -­‐-­‐  the  $20  million  for  conservation  and  the  $14  million  for   forestry  assistance  that  was  announced  by  the  Department  of  Interior  and  USDA  -­‐-­‐   all  in  an  effort  to  try  to  send  a  very  specific  message  to  producers  in  California  that   we  are  here  to  help  to  the  extent  that  we  can.                With  that,  I  think  I’d  like  to  turn  it  over  to  John  Holdren  so  he  can  explain  to  you   the  context  of  all  of  this.                John.                DR.  HOLDREN:    Well,  thank  you,  Secretary  Vilsack.    First  of  all,  we  know  that   scientifically,  no  single  episode  of  extreme  weather,  no  storm,  no  flood,  no  drought   can  be  said  to  have  been  caused  by  global  climate  change.    But  the  global  climate  has   now  been  so  extensively  impacted  by  the  human-­‐caused  buildup  of  greenhouse   gases  that  weather  practically  everywhere  is  being  influenced  by  climate  change.                We’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.    And   we  understand  a  substantial  part  at  least  of  the  reason  that  that  is  happening  in  a   warming  world.    First  of  all,  in  a  warming  world,  a  larger  proportion  of  total  rainfall   occurs  in  extreme  downpours,  and  that  means  more  of  the  rainfall  is  lost  to  storm   runoff,  and  less  soaks  into  the  ground.         Secondly,  in  a  warming  world,  more  of  the  precipitation  that  falls  in  the  mountains   occurs  as  rain  rather  than  as  snow.    The  rain  runs  off  quickly  in  contrast  to   snowpack  that  melts  gradually  and  thus  maintains  river  flows  through  the  spring   and  the  summer.    And  third,  higher  temperatures,  of  course,  mean  greater  loss  of   water  to  evaporation  both  from  soils  and  from  reservoirs.         There  are  other,  more  subtle  respects  in  which  global  climate  change  may  be   affecting  the  prevalence  of  drought  -­‐-­‐  scientists  are  still  arguing  about  those  -­‐-­‐  but   the  three  I  just  described  are  more  than  enough  to  understand  why  we  are  seeing   droughts  in  drought-­‐prone  regions  becoming  more  frequent,  more  severe,  and   longer.                The  situation  in  California  as  I  think  you  all  know  is  particularly  severe.      As   Secretary  Vilsack  noted,  it  is  the  most  severe  drought  in  the  more  than  hundred   years  of  incremental  records,  but  it’s  also  probably  based  on  paleoclimate  records   one  of  the  strongest  droughts  in  the  last  500  years.    And  by  the  way,  the  drought  in   the  Colorado  River  Basin  is  probably  one  of  the  strongest  droughts  in  that  area  in   the  last  thousand  years.                MR.  LEHRICH:    Thank  you,  Dr.  Holdren  and  Secretary  Vilsack.    And  we’re  ready   for  some  questions  now.      
  • 5.          Q        Mr.  Secretary,  what  does  the  administration  think  of  the  Feinstein-­‐Boxer   legislation  that  was  introduced  last  Tuesday?  Briefly,  that  would  push  the  feds  to  be   more  flexible  on  how  they  control  pumping  and  the  water  contracts  for  Central   Valley  water  as  well  as  the  state  water  projects.                SECRETARY  VILSACK:    Well,  the  reality  I  think  this  is  an  opportunity  for  us  today   to  focus  on  executive  action.    Obviously  we’ll  be  -­‐-­‐  the  administration  will  be  taking  a   look  at  what  the  senators  are  proposing  -­‐-­‐  I  know  they’re  proposing  additional  help   and  assistance.    And  we’ll  obviously  work  with  the  Senate  and  the  House  if  they  can   reach  a  consensus  on  this.    Obviously  there’s  a  difference  of  opinion,  based  on  what   Senator  Feinstein  and  what  Senator  Boxer  have  proposed,  and  what  the  House   recently  passed.                But  rather  than  wait  for  congressional  action,  what  we’re  going  to  try  to  do  is  try   to  put  the  resources  that  are  available  that  we  have  control  over  to  work  as  quickly   as  possible.    And  that’s  -­‐-­‐  I  don’t  want  to  underemphasize  the  significance  of  the   President’s  directive  on  this  livestock  assistance  because,  historically,  this  has  taken   months  and  months  and  months  to  do,  and  the  President  has  been  very  clear  to  me   and  to  USDA  that  he  wants  it  done  so  that  people  can  begin  applying  within  60   days.    That  is  going  to  send  a  very  strong  message  about  his  need  and  his  desire  to   get  things  moving  and  to  help  to  the  extent  possible.                MR.  LEHRICH:    And  I  can  just  add  to  that,  Roger,  from  our  perspective  that  we  are   encouraged  by  the  progress  in  the  Senate  on  efforts  to  ease  the  pain  caused  by  the   drought  and  that  we  look  forward  to  continuing  to  work  with  the  bill  sponsors  and   other  members  of  Congress,  like  the  Secretary  said,  as  the  process  moves  forward.                Q        Mr.  Secretary,  could  you  elaborate  on  what  you  mean  by  operational   flexibilities?    When  you  want  to  speed  changes  to  key  water  projects,  what  key   water  projects  are  you  talking  about?                SECRETARY  VILSACK:    These  are  projects  that  the  Interior,  EPA,  Bureau  of   Reclamation  and  the  Fish  and  Wildlife  Services  are  working  on.    These  are  not   projects  that  are  specific  to  USDA.    But  the  President  has  been  very  clear  that  he   doesn’t  want  any  delay.    He  wants  folks  to  move  as  quickly  as  possible.    And  the   announcement  today  in  terms  of  the  disaster  assistance  is  a  reflection  of  that.         I’m  sure  we  can  get  you  a  list  of  the  projects  that  are  currently  being  worked  on  in   California,  but  the  bottom  line  here  is  that  there’s  no  time  for  delay,  there’s  no  time   for  inefficiency.    The  President  wants  things  to  move  and  he’s  directing  all  of  his   agencies  to  do  what  they  can  to  try  to  alleviate  or  to  try  to  mitigate  the  impacts  and   effects  of  this  drought.                Q        Thanks.      
  • 6.          Q        I  just  want  to  make  sure  -­‐  we’re  only  talking  about  the  -­‐-­‐  we’re  not  talking   about  the  livestock  indemnity  program,  it’s  just  the  forest  disaster  program,  because   you  said  it’s  going  to  be  a  billion  dollars  country-­‐wide  and  that  it  would  help  the   folks  who  went  through  blizzards,  but  that  would  be  more  like  the  livestock   indemnity  program,  wouldn’t  it  -­‐-­‐  for  animals  who  just  died  from  freezing  to   death?    I  just  want  to  make  sure  there’s  nothing  in  here  for  fruit  and  vegetable   growers.                SECRETARY  VILSACK:    First  of  all,  let  me  be  clear  about  this:    There  are  four   livestock  disaster  programs,  there  are  four  disaster  programs  that  were   reauthorized  in  the  farm  bill,  and  the  President  is  instructing  us  on  all  four,  to  get   them  lined  up  so  that  applications  can  be  received  within  60  days  and  money  can   flow  shortly  thereafter.    So  this  is  both  the  forage  and  the  livestock  indemnity   program,  the  tree  assistance  program  -­‐-­‐  and  one  that’s  escaping  me  right  now.    So   it’s  all  four;  all  four  of  them  have  to  be  institutionalized.         And  as  it  relates  to  some  of  the  specialty  crops  that  are  grown  in  California,  it’s   conceivable  the  tree  assistance  program  might  be  of  assistance  to  tree  producers,  to   nut  producers  here  in  this  state.                Secondly,  the  conservation  programs  that  we’re  announcing  are  designed  to   provide  help  and  assistance  to  growers  of  a  multitude  of  crops,  including  fruits  and   vegetables.    To  the  extent  that  that  land  is  now  fallow  and  there  is  concern  about  soil   erosion,  to  the  extent  that  there  are  ways  in  which  water  resources,  irrigation   systems  can  be  assisted  or  helped,  these  resources  could  potentially  be  made   available  as  well  for  those  growers.         So  this  is  not  limited  to  livestock.    This  is  basically  designed  to  try  to  provide  help   and  assistance  to  producers  of  all  stripes  here  in  California,  given  the  diversity  of   agriculture  that’s  been  impacted.                Q        Super.    Thanks.                Q        Hi.    Thanks,  Mr.  Secretary.    I  was  wondering  if  there  was  any  work  being  done   to  ease  water  transfers  between  the  state  water  program  and  the  Central  Valley   Improvement  program.                SECRETARY  VILSACK:    That's  a  question  I’m  not  qualified  to  answer,  but  perhaps   somebody  from  the  White  House  can  get  some  information  to  you  on  that.    I  don't   know  the  answer  to  that  question.                MR.  LEHRICH:    Sure.    Shoot  us  an  email  and  we  will  make  sure  we  get  you  in   touch  with  the  right  people,  I  would  imagine  at  the  Department  of  the  Interior.                Q        Thanks  for  the  call,  Mr.  Secretary.    The  state  expected  $1.1  billion  to  be   available  -­‐-­‐  
  • 7.              SECRETARY  VILSACK:    I’m  sorry.    I  couldn’t  hear  that  question  very  well.    There’s   a  problem  with  the  phone.    I’m  not  sure  why.                Q        Yes,  is  that  better?                SECRETARY  VILSACK:    You  can  try  it.                Q        Yes,  Mr.  Secretary,  so  the  $1.1  billion,  is  that  the  total  in  damages  that  you  -­‐-­‐   that  has  been  calculated  for  this?    Or  that's  just  the  amount  of  money  that  may  be   used?    In  other  words,  is  it  $1.1  billion  in  damages  right  now,  just  to  be  clear?                SECRETARY  VILSACK:    Yes,  to  be  clear  about  this,  we  estimate  that  the  livestock   disaster  assistance  programs  will  provide  for  California  producers  up  to  $100   million.    That's  our  estimate  based  on  what  we  know  and  what  we  think  we  know   about  the  damages  that  already  have  been  suffered.                The  billion-­‐dollar  number  would  include  the  $100  million  and  would  include  all   of  the  other  potential  applications  that  could  be  forthcoming  from  folks  who  lost   livestock  or  were  impacted  by  the  2012  drought  across  the  country,  or  who  lost   serious  losses  as  a  result  of  the  snowstorms  in  the  Dakotas  last  fall.    So  it’s  a  billion   dollars  total.    Of  that  amount,  $100  million  is  the  estimate  for  what  we  think  is  likely   to  occur  in  California.    Is  that  clear?                Q        Okay.    One  follow-­‐up?    Would  you  support  more  reservoirs  to  hold  the  water   for  droughts  like  this  in  California?                SECRETARY  VILSACK:    Well,  I  think  actually  I‘m  probably  not  the  person  to  ask   that  question.    What  I  am  interested  in  making  sure  that  we  do  is  to  provide   producers  with  as  much  information  as  we  possibly  can  about  how  to  most   effectively  use  the  water  resources,  whatever  they  are,  wherever  they  come  from,   however  they're  stored  in  an  environmentally  appropriate  way  and  the  like,  and   distribute  it  appropriately.                Our  goal  here  is  to  make  sure  that  we  provide  producers  help  and  assistance   because  they  have  suffered  immediately  and  to  use  the  climate  hub  efforts  to  assess   the  long-­‐term  vulnerabilities,  to  provide  and  identify  technologies  for  producers   that  they  can  use  to  adapt  to  a  changing  climate  or  to  mitigate  the  impacts.                We  have  already  invested  several  hundred  million  dollars  in  research  in   California.    A  lot  of  it  has  been  focused  on  trying  to  figure  out  how  to  use  water  more   effectively,  how  to  reduce  the  salinity  of  the  water  that  is  available,  how  to  ensure   that  new  technologies  -­‐-­‐  new  seed  technologies  are  being  developed,  to  utilize   scarce  water  resources  more  effectively.    That's  the  role  and  responsibility  of  the   USDA,  and  that's  what  we’re  -­‐-­‐  that's  what  I’m  focused  on  -­‐-­‐  getting  relief  to  folks.      
  • 8.          DR.  HOLDREN:    Can  I  just  add  -­‐-­‐  this  is  John  Holdren.    Let  me  just  add  one  point   there.    The  problem  in  California  is  not  that  we  don't  have  enough  reservoirs.    The   problem  is  that  there’s  not  enough  water  in  them.    Just  to  give  you  some  numbers:   As  of  the  end  of  last  weekend,  Fulsom  Lake  was  at  22  percent  of  capacity;  Lake   Oroville  at  37  percent;  Pine  Flat  at  18  percent;  San  Luis  Reservoir  at  30   percent.    You  get  the  idea.    We  just  haven’t  had  enough  water  flowing  into  those   reservoirs.    It  wouldn’t  help  to  build  any  more.                Q        Thank  you.                Q        Yes,  can  you  tell  me  if  the  administration  took  a  position  on  the  bill  that   passed  the  House  last  week  that  was  supposed  to  address  these  water  problems  in   California?                MR.  LEHRICH:    Yes,  Gary.    We  did  take  a  position.    We’ve  issued  a  statement  of   administration  policy  opposed  to  that  bill.  and  we’ll  be  happy  to  send  you  the  full   text  of  that  statement  of  administration  policy.                Q        Thank  you.                Q        Hi.    Thank  you  for  speaking  with  us.    I  have  a  question  about  the  $100  million   in  livestock  disaster  assistance.    Can  dairy  farmers  use  that  money  to  shore  up  the   crops  they  need  to  feed  to  their  livestock?    Or  is  it  simply  for  livestock  head  guys?                SECRETARY  VILSACK:    There  are  two  different  programs.    One  addresses   livestock  that  died  as  a  result  of  whatever  -­‐-­‐  storms,  drought.    There’s  also  a  forage   program  that  basically  provides  help  and  assistance  to  producers  who  have  been   unable  to  obtain  the  forage  that  they  traditionally  could  rely  on  to  feed  their   livestock.    This  gives  them  cash  assistance  that  allows  them  potentially  to  get  forage   and  feed  from  other  sources.  It  might  be  more  expensive.    There  may  be   transportation  expenses.    So  it’s  both.                Q        Okay,  so  we  could  see  California  dairy  farmers  using  that  money  to  buy  forage   from  out  of  state?                SECRETARY  VILSACK:    Or  a  different  feed  that  they  wouldn’t  normally  or   traditionally  use,  because  they  have  their  own  access  to  their  own  fields,  which  right   now  are  not  producing  enough.  It’s  always  up  to  the  producer.    It’s  up  to  the   producer’s  situation.                But  the  point  of  this  is  it  provides  help  and  assistance  to  producers  who  have   been  negatively  impacted  by  this  drought  either  in  terms  of  the  availability  or   substantial  cost  with  alternatives  or  substitutes.                Q        The  President  rarely  discusses  climate  change  when  he  talks  about  extreme   weather.    Is  that  going  to  change  tomorrow?    And  if  so,  for  all  those  parched  
  • 9. Americans  out  there,  how  do  you  really  connect  things  like  cutting  greenhouse  gases   or  backing  renewable  energy  with  terrible  drought?                DR.  HOLDREN:    I  mean,  number  one,  you  can  certainly  expect  that  the  President   will  talk  about  the  connection  between  the  increasing  frequency  and  intensity  of   droughts  and  climate  change  when  he  speaks  tomorrow.    He  has  actually  repeatedly   talked  about  the  connection  between  climate  change  and  extreme  weather.    He  did   so  in  his  speech  at  June  25th  at  Georgetown  University  when  he  rolled  out  the   Climate  Action  Plan.                And  he  will  talk  tomorrow  about  the  phenomena  that  I  mentioned  earlier  in  this   call,  which  is  that  we  really  understand  a  number  of  the  reasons  that  global  climate   change  is  increasing  the  intensity  and  the  frequency  and  the  length  of  droughts  in   drought-­‐prone  regions.    This  is  one  of  the  better  understood  dimensions  of  the   relationship  between  global  climate  change  and  extreme  weather  in  particular   regions.                Q        I  also  have  a  question  about  moving  along  key  water  projects.    I’m  wondering   if  by  that  you  or  the  administration  is  endorsing  in  any  way  the  Bay  Delta   Conservation  Project  to  build  twin  tunnels  under  the  Delta  to  transfer  water  more   effectively  from  north  to  south.                SECRETARY  VILSACK:    I  don’t  know  the  answer  to  that  question.    I  can  tell  you   that  we  have  at  the  USDA  been  involved  in  the  California  Bay  Delta  area  with   additional  investments  over  the  last  several  years.    But  I’m  not  familiar  with  that   specific  project.                DR.  HOLDREN:    Nor  am  I.                Q        Can  I  have  a  follow-­‐up  question?    I’m  wondering  for  the  drought  assistance  for   growers  and  farmers,  what  form  will  that  assistance  take?    Do  you  have  an  idea   about  that?                SECRETARY  VILSACK:    When  you  say  “form”  -­‐-­‐  well,  let  me  just  see  if  I  can   respond  to  your  question.    The  livestock  disaster  assistance  we  referred  to  earlier  is   in  the  form  of  cash.    It’s  in  the  form  of  money.    The  conversation  assistance  is  also  in   the  form  of  resources  that  will  be  utilized  by  producers.    It  helps  to  pay  for   conservation  practices  that  they  may  install  on  their  property  or  efficiencies  that   they  may  create  in  terms  of  water  resources  that  they’re  currently  using.                Most  of  these  programs  are  sort  of  matching  funds  providing  help  and  assistance   to  the  producer  -­‐-­‐  not  fully  paying  for  all  of  the  steps,  but  helping  to  pay  for  a  portion   of  them.    The  emergency  water  assistance  grants  are  grants  made  to  communities   themselves.    So  that’s  resources,  money  that’s  provided  to  a  community,  it’s  not   provided  through  producers.    It’s  provided  to  a  community  that  is  faced  with  water   shortages.    And  they  may  be  taking  steps  to  secure  additional  water  resources.    And  
  • 10. this  money  is  provided  to  assist  them  in  helping  to  pay  for  whatever  steps  they’re   taking.                The  food  bank  resources  is  money  from  The  Emergency  Food  Assistance   Program,  TEFAP,  that  gives  food  banks  the  capacity  to  go  out  and  purchase   whatever  they  believe  is  most  appropriate,  most  necessary,  to  help  families  based   on  what  demand  at  the  food  bank  is.    And  the  summer  meal  program,  basically  once   the  sites  are  set  up,  USDA  provides  a  cost  to  -­‐-­‐  the  600  summer  meal  sites,  that  is  -­‐-­‐   USDA  provides  reimbursement  to  the  affiliates  or  the  community  that  is  sponsoring   the  meal  sites.    We  basically  pay  for  the  meals  and  we  provide  a  reimbursement   level  based  on  the  number  of  meals  that  are  supplied.    So  it’s  a  wide  range  of  types  of   assistance  that  are  provided.                MR.  LEHRICH:    Thank  you,  Secretary  Vilsack  and  Dr.  Holdren.  And  thank  you  all   for  taking  the  time  to  join  us.    One  more  reminder  that  this  call  was  on  the  record,   but  is  embargoed  for  6:00  a.m.  tomorrow  morning  Eastern  time,  which  means  it’s   not  in  Friday’s  papers,  it’s  in  Saturday’s  papers,  but  can  be  online  at  6:00   a.m.  Eastern  time.                As  always,  if  you  didn’t  get  a  fact  sheet  or  have  follow-­‐ups,  feel  free  to  get  in  touch   with  us.    Otherwise,  I’m  sure  that  Secretary  Vilsack  and  the  President  look  forward   to  seeing  a  bunch  of  you  tomorrow  in  California.         Thanks  again.    Have  a  good  night.                                                            END                              7:01  P.M.  EST