Western states to get US$110M in drought aid

Washington | Reuters — The White House said Friday it would spend an additional US$110 million to help farmers and communities in western states hit hard by drought and wildfires.

The drought has affected a third of the western United States, and President Barack Obama was slated to discuss it with western governors in a video conference on Friday.

The Agriculture Department will expand crop insurance, providing about $30 million in relief this year and $42 million next year, the White House said (all figures US$).

The Labor Department will provide up to $18 million in grants to California, a state where as many as 18,000 jobs have been lost to drought.

The White House said the money will be used to create up to 1,000 jobs for up to six months working on drought and wildfire projects.

The Interior Department will spend $10 million on projects designed to lessen the risk of major fires, the White House said.

The new spending is on top of the more than $190 million spent by federal agencies this year on drought. The USDA also projects it will spend at least $1.2 billion in aid to livestock farmers.

Reporting for Reuters by Roberta Rampton in Washington, D.C.

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