A new USDA grant will finance the use of crop insurance data to improve education, extension efforts that help ranchers and farmers assess how extreme weather and climate disruptions have caused production losses and project future losses.
The five-year $1.5million grant has been awarded to the National Center for Appropriate Technology with Montana State University (MSU), and the University of California, Davis with the University of California, Davis with the purpose of collaborating with the USDA Southwest Climate Hubs.
In 2020, insured crop losses of $2.6 million were suffered by the Southwest and Northern Plains Climate Hubs farmers and ranchers. These farmers and ranchers spent $1.8 billion on this coverage (USDA RMA 2021).
Although most of the insured losses in these two areas can be attributed to extreme weather, long-term trends for loss are increasing due to a changing climate.
“This project will utilize a diverse team, including climate hub personnel, extension faculty, agricultural economists, graduate students, and two climate hub fellows to develop and implement improved extension materials for communicating these growing risks associated with extreme weather and climate change,” Dr. Eric Belasco, professor of Agricultural Economics at Montana State University and co-project director says.
This is part of a new collaboration between the USDA Climate Hubs. This partnership, which covers two large areas of the U.S., further expands the outreach efforts of the Climate Hubs to reach organizations like the Cooperative Extension Service that have to address climate and extreme weather challenges.
“We at the Southwest Climate Hub have built producer-friendly tools such as the AgRisk Viewer that can help assess weather and climate risks, and this project will help expand and improve the use of this and other tools that serve the farmers and ranchers of the Southwest,” Dr. Emile Elias, director of the USDA Southwest Climate Hub adds.
This work is key in understanding the climate-risk assessment information farmers and ranchers need.
“We will begin our efforts by hosting a number of focus group sessions that target the broad range of farmers and ranchers, including socially disadvantaged and minority producers and the educational institutions that serve them,” NCAT agricultural and natural resource economist Jeff Schahczenski says. “It is critical to listen to the needs of farmers and ranchers on how best to meet the challenges of future extreme weather and climate risks.”
Crop Insurance and Data
MSU, NCAT, and UC-Davis have collaborated on several efforts to better understand the complexity of federal crop insurance products and why these products aren’t widely used by farmers and ranchers across the country.
“For example, the expanding use of a unique kind of insurance called the Pasture, Rangeland and Forage Rainfall Index (PRF) has been an increasingly important product for livestock producers,” said Dr. Tina Saitone, Associate Cooperative Extensions Specialist, with UC-Davis and rangeland systems expert. “This ‘index’ insurance insures against forage losses based on a complicated formula related to independent rainfall-index measurements, and it is not simple to understand how best to optimize its use in livestock-production risks.”
The data from crop-insurance losses will be used to assist producers in understanding the trends in weather-related losses and to assess how changes in production practices may better mitigate future losses.
“Our overarching approach and philosophy is that there is no silver bullet to managing risk in production systems, especially risks associated with climate variability,” Belasco said. “Instead, we take a risk management portfolio approach, with the goal of providing clear and detailed information for farmers, ranchers, and professionals so they can better address the regional risks that they currently face and are predicted to face in the future.”
USDA’s Climate Hubs represent a unique collaboration between all agencies.
They are led and hosted by the Agricultural Research Service and Forest Service located at ten regional locations, with contributions from many agencies including the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the Risk Management Agency.
The Climate Hubs link USDA research and program agencies in their regional delivery of timely and authoritative tools and information to agricultural producers and professionals.
Source: Successful Farming