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WH to fast-track aid for farmers hurt by drought

(Photo: Thinkstock)

(Photo: Thinkstock)

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — President Barack Obama will travel Friday to California and announce a new federal initiative aimed at helping farms and communities in the grips of a devastating drought.

The President will be joined by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who told reporters Thursday that the program will include $100 million in livestock disaster assistance for farmers and producers, along with funding for water conservation projects, and aid for states across the country affected by the drought.

The administration has decided to fast-track the aid promising it will be available in the next 60 days instead of the typical six to eight months.

Vilsack said the program will help cover losses for 2014 and the previous two years.  The program will pay ranchers and farmers for lost animals and provide money for them to purchase feed.

Colorado Senator Mark Udall has campaigned for the aid, which was included in the 2014 farm bill, which was passed by Congress and signed by the president last week.

“Ranching is an important part of Colorado’s agricultural heritage and one tied to the Centennial State’s earliest days. The president’s swift action and my contribution to the 2014 Farm Bill will ensure that ranchers continue to be a vital part of our job-creating agricultural economy,” Udall said in a statement.

Ranchers and livestock producers will be eligible to apply for disaster assistance for losses dating back to Oct. 1, 2011.

Ranchers can learn more about the resources available to them by contacting their local Farm Service Agency office. Local Farm Service Agency county offices expect to begin processing applications on April 14.

Following the stop in Fresno, Obama travels to the Palm Springs area for a bilateral meeting and working dinner with King Abdullah II of Jordan. The president is scheduled to have down time over the weekend. He returns to Washington on Monday.

CNN contributed to this report.

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