2020 Funded Completed ERME for Producers Underserved by Crop Insurance Projects

1. Building a Resilient Risk Management Network for Producers Underserved by Crop Insurance
Project Director: Carole Bernard Future Harvest, Inc.
Award Amount: $37,930

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, the critical role of resilient local farms and networks became clear. Consumer demand for local food rose fast when meat and early-season produce stocks dwindled. This pandemic presented unprecedented challenges and opportunities for farmers, especially small, beginning, diversified, and socially disadvantaged producers who do not typically engage with crop insurance. As a result, these farmers suddenly expressed great interest in risk management education, which we worked hard to satisfy with a nearly two-year suite of programming, including a total of 12 webinars and workshops and 12 conference sessions to help farmers manage marketing, financial, and human risk during this crisis. Part of our long-term strategy for delivering successful programs included improving our capacity to store and track risk management data gleaned from our program registrations, surveys, and interviews, and using this data to better tailor our programming and outreach, evaluate our impact, distribute data-based products like farmer directories, and contribute to greater understanding of risk management strategies and adoption in the Chesapeake region. Thus, we purchased a new database platform that now houses data for 13,000 members including 800+ farmers in Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware, and the District of Columbia.

2. Simplifying Risk Management Through Collaboration and Innovation
Project Director: Joseph Bonelli
Co-Project Director: Mary Concklin
University of Connecticut
Award Amount: $96,500

Various risk management subject topics were covered including crop insurance options for various commodities. Financial risk programming management addressed financial record keeping, records analysis and benchmarking.  Human health and well-being risk management to help keep all people involved in the business safe were addressed.  

Methods used to deliver project:
Video clips were completed on a variety of project related topics.  The number of videos and video topics are outlined in Progress Notes. Due to University guidelines established as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, workshops were converted to online webinars.  All project related materials were placed on our Risk management website at www.ctfarmrisk.uconn.edu.

The target audience for our One-on-one advising sessions was Connecticut beginning, socially disadvantaged, and traditional producers.  These programs were held virtually using WebEx. 

Educational activities:
19 Videos plus 4 live webinars recorded: 23
Webinars live and recorded: 4
One-on-one advising sessions: 58

3. Mastering Farm Risk Management (“MyFaRM”)
Project Director: Nicole Cook
Co-Project Director: Berran Rogers
University of Maryland Eastern Shore
Award Amount: $98,084

This project was designed to deliver free, in-person and online classes for underserved farmers about developing risk management plans that address all risk areas and emphasize using insurance to manage risks.

We provided three learning tracks: (1) “core group” farmers from the three lower-shore counties who committed to attending a minimum of eight of the eleven originally planned in-person classes; (2) “non-core group” farmers from anywhere who chose a risk management section or sections and committed to attending all of the in-person classes within the section(s); and (3) online independent learning modules that include videos of the classes, associated reading materials, and worksheets to develop a risk management plan.

All core group farmers were to “graduate” with a 5-year risk management plan, half to implement the crop insurance part of their plans five months after starting the classes, and 25% to implement one or more of any parts of their plans 3-4 months after they “graduated.”  25% of the non-core group were to identify at least one affirmative risk-minimizing action they took after completing each chosen course section.  Ultimately, we held 10 and videotaped 9 classes.  We are creating the online modules now for publication.

4. Developing Risk Management and Marketing Plans for Shellfish Growers, Women, and Beginning Farmers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts
Project Director: Laurence Crane
National Crop Insurance Services
Award Amount: $99,765

Applied education consisting of sequential workshops, supplemented by personal assignments and individualized counseling, was delivered virtually to three distinct groups: a) women, b) shellfish, and c) vegetable and small fruit growers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  Six three hour-long zoom sessions were conducted for each group.  Homework assignments requiring a minimum of 10 hours to complete were assigned following each workshop.

A total of 183 producers registered and 123 actively participated by either attending all live sessions or listening to the recording. Ninety-six individuals acquired the risk management and market analysis skills and understanding their own operations sufficiently to set a goal and three implementation actions for each of the five areas of risk and five key marketing mix variables. Surveyed at the project’s end, 43 respondents reported that on average they completed 17.5 hours of homework and accomplished 7 of their 30 implementation strategies. Additional actions are expected to be completed beyond the project’s reporting time-frame.

This program with sequential workshops, hands-on activities and individualized on-farm follow-up, ensures accountability and provides participants an opportunity to succeed. This approach typically leads to long-term behavioral change, consistent with experience that behavior changes are more likely with sustained personal support and accountability.

5. Promoting Risk Management Education for Baltimore Urban Farmers
Project Director: Michael Elonge
University of Maryland
Award Amount: $7,000

This project promoted risk management education to Baltimore City beginning urban farmers by teaching urban farmers to acquire the understanding and knowledge of risk associated with farming including managing the risk. 
Fifteen urban farmers were originally enrolled in the projected, thirteen actually completed the program, and two found new jobs and had to leave the program. Pre-evaluations were completed at the beginning and post evaluations were completed at the end of the program to capture beginning farming behavior change in knowledge gained from each of the five farm risk management classes.

The Project:

The project concluded in May 2021. The project outcomes demonstrated a significant difference between pre class farm risk management knowledge (estimated average of less than 50% ), and post class (estimated average of 80 – 95% ) knowledge gain in farm risk management education.

6. Managing Production, Financial, and Marketing Risks: Producer Education on Contract Development and Crop Insurance Decisions in Industrial Hemp Production
Project Director: Paul Goeringer
University of Maryland
Award Amount: $53,967

Many industrial hemp growers have a limited background in agricultural production, contracting, and the use of crop insurance products. As such, this project seeks to address two major concerns that are influencing the development of the industrial hemp industry. First, our legal team developed producer/processor contract checklist for three types of industrial hemp production (CBD/extract, fiber, and seed). The second component provided producer education on the three available crop insurance products for industrial hemp – Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP), the pilot program for Multi-Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI), and Non-insured Disaster Assistance Program (NAP).  A contract with a processor is often a requirement for risk management tools so this outreach was invaluable to those new growers trying to understand what to look for in a contract and how to get crop insurance.  Overall the project provided industrial hemp producers, crop insurance agents, and processors with contracting and crop insurance information and resources to assist with mitigating production, financial, and marketing risk. 

7. Marketing and Legal Risk Management for Beginning Farmers Accessing Wholesale Markets
Project Director: Timothy Griffin
Co-Project Director: Jennifer Hashley
Trustees of Tufts College
Award Amount: $96,495

To better equip beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers who are engaging in or exploring intermediated and wholesale market channels this project focused on measuring and mitigating production risks associated with crop diversity and food safety; marketing risks associated with different marketing channels; and legal risks involved with contracting and insurance.   

We accomplished these objectives through 1-1 technical assistance with farmers, a video production of recorded interviews with key service providers, an asynchronous online course on navigating risk associated with wholesale and intermediated markets, a networking event for buyers and growers of local produce, a farm tour featuring four beginning farmers, and risk management curriculum integrated into business planning and crop production courses.

Beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers under-exposed to risk management and crop insurance options, primarily in Northeast Massachusetts, gained knowledge of available resources, enhanced their ability to create risk management marketing plans; improved knowledge of food safety requirements, and implemented risk mitigating production practices.

The number of producers served include 97 individuals enrolled in the open-access online course, 46 of whom attended our virtual networking event, 31 participants in the Crop Production Course, 69 participants across three Farm Business Planning Courses, and 17 farmers from our incubator program.

8. Risk Management Education in Vermont 2020-2021
Project Director: Jake Jacobs
University of Vermont
Award Amount: $99,139

This project concentrated risk management and crop insurance education to new and beginning farmers, women in agriculture and dairy producers throughout Vermont.  Content was integrated into two farm business education course curriculums: a UVM Extension course offered twice during the project and a NOFA-VT full-year course.  Course curriculums included the five main areas of agricultural risk management, how to incorporate risk management into business plans, methods and tools to help moderate risks, and production and financial recordkeeping, all of which are priority areas of concern for early stage operations. Additional education and support was provided through team advisory groups, individualized consultations and on-farm workshops. Further outreach was delivered via the UVM Extension Farm Business Program, matching specific risk management and crop insurance information with the commodities and needs of each enterprise applying for services. A series of short instructional videos was produced, added to course follow-up, and available with other risk management resources to all producers on the UVM Extension New Farmer website.
The project reached 60 participants in the two courses, maintained ongoing advisory teams for 8 farms, provided coaching, consulting and referrals to 26 producers, and delivered targeted information to an additional 38 farm business consulting applicants.

9. Risk Management Education for Massachusetts Producers Underserved by Federal Crop Insurance and USDA Disaster Programs
Project Director: Lisa McKeag
Co-Project Director: Thomas Smiarowski
University of Massachusetts
Award Amount: $99,991

The project addressed underserved specialty crop and dairy producers who have been consistently underserved by Federal Crop Insurance due in large part to the lack of policies available.  The project identified 7 key agricultural organizations representing producers who fall in this underserved category and have a proven track record of working with UMass Extension on a variety of agricultural topics.  The organizations worked cooperatively with UMass Extension to provide their members with an overview of Federal Crop Insurance as well as other available USDA disaster assistance programs to assist their members.  

We reached over 3,500 producers with this initial overview.  The next step involved individual or small group meetings to explore options for specialty crop and dairy producers.  These producers had the opportunity to receive a more detailed explanation of available programs in a confidential setting.  We reached 264 producers in these individual or small group settings.   The goal at the end of these sessions was for these producers to have a thorough understanding of programs available to their farming operations and decide which USDA programs, if any, can assist them in managing weather-related risks on their farming operations.  We believe we exceeded our goals!

10.  2020-2022 Crop Insurance and Risk Management Education for New Hampshire Farmers
Project Director: Kanesha Reynolds
University of New Hampshire
Award Amount: $88,785

UNH Cooperative Extension, partnered with Farm Commons, Organization for Refugee and
Immigrant Success (ORIS) and producer organizations to reach 744 NH producers and over 50 FFA students through educational outreach, which addressed strategies and techniques for managing production, marketing, financial, human resource, and legal risks.  Educational outreach included 15 Zoom conferences and webinars, 5 podcasts, 2 farm financial trainings, 5 FFA seminars, and a Legal Guide for New Hampshire Agricultural Producers.  Federal crop insurance education was also provided to participants at all zoom conferences and webinars.  In addition, a recording of federal crop insurance policies available to NH growers was provided with all Zoom recordings, and information provided to podcast listeners.  Due to Covid-19, programs that were proposed as in-person workshops and conferences were pivoted to Zoom. FFA seminars were also done on Zoom, and recordings provided for classes that were cancelled due to Covid-19.  While the online platform was not ideal for all programs and participants, it provided convenience and safety during the pandemic.  Programs targeted several under-served producer groups through websites, newsletters, digital marketing, and listservs.  Participants reported increased knowledge in different risk areas and indicated intent to analyze and/or implement risk management strategies for their own operations.

11. New York Dairy and Livestock Risk Management Education Project
Project Director: Christopher Wolf
Co-Project Director: Jennifer Ifft
Cornell University
Award Amount: $100,000

New York dairy and livestock producers are underserved by Federal crop insurance. This project delivered critical crop insurance and risk management education to these producers through regionally based Dairy, Livestock and Field Crop Extension team farm management educators. Practical, actionable crop insurance and risk management education was delivered through (1) multi-day workshops, (2) presentations at extension events, (3) articles in extension newsletters and the farm media, (4) podcasts, and (5) social media posts with infographics or short videos. The result was improved understanding of crop insurance and risk management concepts . Farm managers that participated in training activities improved understanding of risk management, analyze their practices, and, when appropriate, work with a crop insurance agent. These educational programs contributed to increasing use of crop insurance by NY dairy and livestock farms.