"These funds will help vegetable, citrus and other crop farmers to recover from the financial losses resulting from the lack of irrigation water," said Veneman.

In a joint press conference in Austin Friday, Jim Butler, USDA’s deputy undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, and Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs said the funds, as provided for in the Agricultural Assistance Act of 2003, will be distributed by the Texas Department of Agriculture.

The funds will go to eligible producers in Cameron, Hidalgo, Kinney, Maverick, Starr, Val Verde, Webb, Willacy and Zapata counties.

Producers of agricultural commodities along the Rio Grande River have suffered losses in recent years from reduced amounts of irrigation water. The loss of irrigation water is attributed to Mexico not providing an average of 350,000 acre-feet of water annually for each five-year cycle as required under a 1944 U.S.-Mexico water treaty.

Over the last 10 years, Mexico has accumulated a water debt of approximately 1.5 million acre-feet. A reduction in irrigation water from the Rio Grande River, combined with drought conditions, has had adverse financial affects on producers in the region.

In addition to this assistance, USDA provides farmers, ranchers and other producers with additional types of disaster assistance such as emergency loans, crop disaster and livestock programs and emergency conservation assistance.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com