Agricultural Production Risk in a Changing Climate: Assessing Causes of Loss Using Crop Insurance Data

TitleAgricultural Production Risk in a Changing Climate: Assessing Causes of Loss Using Crop Insurance Data
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsReyes J.T., Eischens A, Shilts M, Williamson JC, Elias EH
Conference NameEcological Society of America
Date Published08/2018
PublisherEcological Society of America
Conference LocationNew Orleans, LA
ARIS Log Number354984

The synthesis and analysis of existing ‘big data’ in the agricultural sector can yield additional insights of such knowledge in a changing climate, as well as increase the collective value of these data. The creation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Climate Hub network prioritizes this with information synthesis and tool development as tangible outputs. The Hubs’ mission is to develop and deliver science-based information and technologies to agricultural and natural resource managers to enable climate-informed decision-making. As part of this, Hubs work across USDA agencies to synthesize existing information to meet the needs of our ultimate stakeholders - farmers, ranchers, and land managers. The USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) is responsible for overseeing the Federal crop insurance program and works with private insurance companies. RMA has collected annual cause of loss data since the mid-1900s with monthly data beginning in 1989. These data describe the reason for loss (e.g., drought, wind, irrigation failure), indemnity amount (i.e., total cost of loss), as well as relevant spatio-temporal information (i.e., state, county, year, month).

Results/Conclusions:We first describe an initial retrospective analysis of causes of loss at multiple spatial and temporal scales over the United States. We find that drought and excess moisture are the top two causes of loss since 2001, and are responsible for over 70% of nationwide climate-related crop loss payments. Regional differences in top causes of loss demonstrate the complex interactions of biophysical, climatic, socio-economic, and geo-political factors. Causes of loss over time show distinct trends as a function of major weather disasters and long-term climate events, such as drought. Using this information, we engage our partners and stakeholders to develop decision-relevant products related to crop insurance and create opportunities for future research co-production. A web-based tool is also developed to deliver these crop insurance data to our partners and stakeholders for increased accessibility, discoverability, and usability. Ultimately, we envision the project supporting targeted adaptation in high production risk areas, multi-scale land management decisions, and ecosystem resilience.