Insights on drought and long-term climatic trends: Retrospective analyses of crop insurance data

TitleInsights on drought and long-term climatic trends: Retrospective analyses of crop insurance data
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsReyes J.T., Eischens A, Shilts M, Elias EH, Steele R
Conference NameASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting
Date Published10/2017
PublisherASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Conference LocationTampa, FL
ARIS Log Number343469

A modern trend among federal agencies, funding streams, and research projects involves the synthesis of existing data to increase the overall collective value and meaning of such knowledge. The creation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Climate Hubs follows this line of thought with information synthesis and tool development as tangible outputs of this new federal coordination network. 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 stakeholders.   
The USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) is responsible for overseeing the Federal crop insurance program and works with private insurance companies. The USDA also administers other programs for commodities not insured under the federal program such as for livestock and honey bees. 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).
The objective of this paper is to link climate information with indemnities and their associated cause of loss to potentially shape the development of future RMA programs and provide regionally-relevant information to our stakeholders to effectively manage their lands. We describe an initial retrospective trend analysis at the state-level for the American Southwest. In addition, we link historical monthly weather data (i.e. precipitation and temperature) and long-term drought indices (e.g. Palmer Drought Severity Index) with indemnities grouped by different causes of loss. Ultimately this analysis will convey county-level spatial and temporal trends via a web-based information browser to support informed land management decisions and ecosystem resilience.