Drought: How to Prepare and Where to Find Help

Drought afflicted the Midwest and California in recent seasons and is likely to continue to impact farmers in these states as climate change becomes a more pressing agricultural concern.

When dealing with a drought or any natural disaster, one of the most valuable tools a farmer can implement is record keeping.  “Currently, government agencies, lenders and insurance companies are requiring better and more accurate records,” a publication from Pennsylvania State University’s Cooperative Extension describes. “Not only bushels per acre, income and expenses, but also weather records are becoming increasingly necessary.” South Dakota State University’s Cooperative Extension released the “Record Keeping in Farm Management” publication to explain the importance of record keeping, particularly during a drought. As the article explains, there’s very little that a farm can do to prepare for a drought, but thorough record keeping can improve a farm’s financial wellbeing. This publication comprehensively provides an overview of what careful record keeping should look like.

While record keeping and water management techniques can make a vast difference for a farmer facing drought, there are some online resources that can help.

Farm Aid Resource Guide

Farm Aid developed a Crisis Support Resource Guide that has a list of resources to guide farmers to educational resources during a time of crisis, which includes a natural disaster such as drought. These resources also dip into other relevant topics, such as where a farmer can turn when in need of legal advice or services.

Beginning Farmers LLC

The Beginning Farmers LLC compiled a list of online resources applicable to beginning and experienced farmers. These resources provide a look into the science behind drought and how to plan for its impact and manage the repercussions if drought hits. Beginning Farmers also encourages farmers facing drought to contact the organization for more resources.

California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA)

CDFA’s California Drought Information and Resources created a site with organizations and websites that can provide assistance to farmers facing drought. While some of these are state-based organizations, there are many resources available to farmers on a national scale. The site provides a list of USDA grant programs that may apply to farmers during a drought.

Click here for drought updates and more information on USDA assistance programs.

Crop Insurance Resource Roundup

Risk management is a crucial aspect of farming, particularly with the extreme weather conditions that are hitting the United States. A critical part of this is crop insurance. To get the basics, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency developed a webpage with answers to common questions surrounding crop insurance. Below are some tools available for free online that can help farmers navigate how to effectively implement crop insurance.

Crop Insurance for Individuals

FLAG created a PDF intended as a training guide for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives that provides an in depth look into crop insurance for individuals. This document is available to anyone for free online. It covers everything there is to know behind the roles and rules of insuring crops through Federal Crop Insurance or a private insurer. The document also delves into what is covered under crop insurance, what to look for in a contract and much more.

Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program

This program is available for producers that were hit by a natural disaster without crop insurance.

Utah State University Extension developed a presentation explaining everything there is to know about the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency also offers an informative disaster assistance fact sheet focusing on the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.

Organic Crop Insurance

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency produced a fact sheet explaining the Contract Price Addendum, which now allows organic producers to insure crops at a set price specified in a contract. The addendum is applicable to 62 types of crops.

Corn and Soybean Crop Insurance

Iowa State’s Extension program offers two helpful PDF’s available through the Decision Tools section of its website. These free downloadable PDFs offer valuable insight into choosing crop insurance plans for corn and soybeans; the first of which provides a tool to compare different strategies for insurance on corn and soybeans, while the second compares the risk behind GRIP and GRP crop insurance for these crops.

Cover Crops and Crop Insurance

The National Resources Conservation Service put the Cover Crop Termination Guidelines online in a downloadable PDF format.

For a more in depth look, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Center for Appropriate Technology created a webinar that explains “when and how to terminate cover crops and maintain eligibility for crop insurance coverage of subsequently planted cash crops.”

Other Helpful Tools

University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension collected various crop insurance fact sheet publications covering the following topics: apples, peaches, corn, fresh market sweet corn, forage production, forage seeding, nursery and insurance coverage for organic crops.

The Western Center for Risk Management Education offers funding opportunities

The Western Center for Risk Management Education is accepting funding applications for strategic risk management projects that help farmers and ranchers. These federally funded grants will not exceed $50,000. The deadline for pre-proposals is December 12, 2013. Finalists will be informed by January 31, 2014 that they will need to submit a full proposal.

Two categories of proposals will be considered:

1. “2014 Exploratory Projects for planning, development, piloting efforts and/or smaller producer education programs with awards up to $2,000 and;

2. 2014 Education Projects with awards up to $50,000.”

The Washington State University Extension will host an applicant webinar on Friday, November 8 at 1 pm EST here. To learn more about applying for 2014 funding, view or download the RFI document by clicking here. Before applying, click here to read the Extension Risk Management Education’s pre-proposal tutorial.

Closing Dates Approaching for Federal Crop Insurance Programs

Spring sales closing dates are quickly approaching for Multiple Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI) programs, which include the whole farm insurance programs Adjusted Gross Revenue Pilot (AGR) and Adjusted Gross Revenue-Lite (AGR-Lite). Both current policyholders and uninsured growers must make decisions on crop insurance coverage before the closing dates. See below for specific dates:

  • January 31, 2013: Final date to buy or change AGR insurance in select counties. Final date to submit required documents to continue or change 2013 AGR-Lite insurance for existing policyholders.
  • March 15, 2013: Final date to buy or change all other Spring Seeded MPCI (excluding those crops with other closing dates). Final date to buy 2013 AGR-Lite insurance for new application/enrollment policies.

Producers should visit their local crop insurance agent as soon as possible for specific details because the closing dates vary for specific crops. If there is no coverage in a county for a specific crop under the traditional MPCI program, producers are encouraged to ask crop insurance agents whether they would be eligible under a written agreement.

A list of crop insurance agents is available at all USDA Service Centers or on the Risk Management Agency’s website.