March 24, 2022
In 2020 and 2021, USDA awarded almost $10.5 million to fund over 200 risk management education grants for universities and community-based organizations to help farmers learn how to better mitigate risk on their farms. Awardees included a number of NSAC members, whose projects are highlighted below.
Farmers deal with uncertainty and risk daily. At any time, crops, livestock, and livelihoods can be damaged or destroyed by extreme weather, pests, or changes in the market. To protect against these inherent risks associated with farming, farmers can employ a number of risk management strategies. For example, producers can purchase insurance policies, enter into production or marketing contracts, implement soil health and fertility improvements, or diversify into new value-added markets.
The Extension Risk Management Education Program (ERME) provides competitive grant funding through four regional centers and one digital center to help farmers learn how to better mitigate risk on their farms. ERME-funded projects help farmers identify resources and implement techniques to reduce risk and increase the financial stability of their operations.
ERME regional centers have funded more than 1,500 projects in every state and engaged tens of thousands of farmer participants since their creation in 2002. In fiscal year (FY) 2021, almost $5.2 million was awarded to fund 97 projects in over 40 states. In FY 2020, almost $5.3 million was awarded to fund 105 projects.
For more information about the program, check out the ERME website.
NSAC wants to recognize a number of our member organizations which received grants to implement their own risk management projects within the last two years. These projects include:
Community Involved In Sustainable Agriculture (CISA) – This project (FY 2020) helped 37 western Massachusetts farmers to use financial decision-making tools to support real-life farm decisions such as whether to expand or downsize, or whether to diversify or specialize. As a result of this project, at least 16 farmers applied new tools to a decision and made at least one change in their business by the end of the grant period. The tools will be made available online to reach even more farmers.
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) – This ongoing project (FY 2021) is intended to support organic and transitioning producers to identify and mitigate production, marketing, and legal risk on their operations. OEFFA is providing targeted education, technical assistance, and durable resources which empower producers to face risk head on and address it before it becomes a problem.
Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) – This project (FY 2020) focused on organic crop insurance education. While crop insurance for conventional crops, such as corn and soybeans, are pretty easy to walk in and purchase in the Midwest, the options for certified organic grain operations are less clear. CFRA developed an educational guide and distributed more than 1,000 copies of said guide, which was featured in over 65 publications. CFRA was also able to support 46 farmers one-on-one and facilitated seven presentations within the grant period, reaching almost 125 attendees.
“This guide is really outstanding. There really hasn’t been anything like this in the industry before.”Iowa Crop Insurance Agent
Land Stewardship Project (LSP) – This ongoing project (FY 2021) is designed to connect underserved beginning specialty crop and livestock farmers and retiring farmers or non-operating landowners (NOLOs) with strategies that mitigate risk, develop financial, legal and human resilience and build links to secure and affordable land. Beginning and retiring farmers and NOLOs will receive training to create financial resiliency through effective record keeping, land access/ land transition, and readiness to enroll in Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP).
LSP with Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association – This ongoing project (FY 2021) will assess whether USDA’s Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP), including the new Micro Farm policy, and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) provide a net benefit for the intended farmers (e.g., small to mid-sized, beginning, diversified) in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Results from this project will provide insight to the levels of production, risk, or loss at which these insurance policies provide a net gain to the farmer and allow comparison of farmer net gain from these programs with farmer net gain from analogous commodity crop insurance policies.
California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) – This project (FY 2020) was designed to identify the gaps, overlaps, opportunities, and barriers related to climate variability risk management educational offerings for farmers and ranchers in the California Central Coast. Farmer educators participating in the study found that some educational methods are particularly effective, including technical assistance, farmer-to-farmer learning, and using farmer-centered language. Programmatic gaps were identified as well, including approaching climate risk management through the lens of financial management and business planning and the absence of information on alternative crops for a changing climate as well as market-based incentives for adopting climate variability risk management strategies.
To search and view full project descriptions, click here.