Feast or famine: Climate impacts on agriculture using crop insurance data

TitleFeast or famine: Climate impacts on agriculture using crop insurance data
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsReyes J.T., Elias EH
Conference NameAmerican Geophysical Union
Date Published12/2019
Conference LocationSan Francisco, California
ARIS Log Number378948

The federal crop insurance program has paid out over $120 billion between 1989 and 2017 due to weather and climate-driven events. Operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency, the taxpayer-subsidized program is an important financial safety net to our farmers, ranchers, and landowners. However, climate change is expected to increase programmatic costs, decrease agricultural production, and threaten rural communities’ economic livelihoods and wellbeing. Our objectives are to: (1) present methods to analyze and visualize long-term crop insurance losses, (2) report on significant patterns and trends of crop loss, and (3) share an online tool used to engage stakeholders using these data to enhance their risk management decision making.
We performed a retrospective analysis of crop insurance loss data from 1989 to 2017 at multiple spatial and temporal scales. We found that drought and excess moisture were the leading two causes of crop loss across the Nation resulting in $79.6 billion in indemnities, or insurance payouts, and comprising 61% of total indemnities. Monthly and regional patterns of crop loss demonstrated the capability of crop insurance loss data to act as an integrator of environmental, socio-economic, and management factors. Trend analyses revealed divergent patterns of risk and a ‘feast or famine’ storyline of water with either too much, or too little, causing significant crop loss. These also suggested areas of higher production risk related to different weather and climate-driven events. Some areas may perceive hail as a greater risk, and therefore increase insurance coverage to hedge and minimize risk. In other areas, adaptive capacity of producers may be limiting losses. Finally, we developed the AgRisk Viewer, a web-based platform to make these data accessible, discoverable, and usable to our agricultural stakeholders. This information helps to identify high production risk areas, and thus enables climate-informed agricultural risk management ensuring viable and sustainable landscapes. Poster #528860.