California farmers will be able to seek $20 million in federal assistance to cope with the drought, the U.S. Agriculture Department said Tuesday.

Through March 3, applications will be accepted for funds from Natural Resources Conservation Service's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP, for agricultural water-conservation projects on cropland and grazing land. Highest priority for funding will go to projects on land forced to reduce water use by at least 85 percent.

Such projects would be those that use water more efficiently and stabilize fallowed cropland via irrigation efficiency, cover crops, rehabilitation of existing spring developments and protection of grazing lands.

"Working with our federal, state, and local partners, we are doing everything within our power to support those farmers and ranchers affected by this intense drought," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The department said this extra funding is part of the National Drought Resilience Partnership, launched by President Obama's Climate Action Plan.