4.2 Using Spatial Climate and Weather Data to Improve the Nation's Crop Insurance Program

Thursday, 12 June 2014: 8:15 AM
Church Ranch (Denver Marriott Westminster)
Christopher Daly, Oregon State Univ., Corvallis, OR; and C. Pancake, D. Keon, and K. Bryant

In 2010, The PRISM Climate Group (PRISM) at Oregon State University (OSU) partnered with the Risk Management Agency (RMA) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to deliver detailed weather and climate estimates for every farm, every day, across the conterminous US. The RMA oversees the nation's crop insurance program, which insures over $120 billion worth of agricultural production each year. Insurance services are sold and administered by a small number of private insurance companies. The overall goal of the RMA-PRISM partnership is to improve the efficiency and integrity of the insurance program. Given that most crop damage claims are weather related, the value of knowing what weather events happened, and where, is important to being able to evaluate and pay claims quickly and accurately. This information is also used to combat abuse of the system. While the vast majority of growers use crop insurance in a legitimate way to protect themselves from the vagaries of weather, such as drought, floods, heat, and cold, a few have been known to game the system in their favor by falsely claiming that damaging weather events occurred. High-quality climate and weather data can provide objective information on not only whether an event occurred, but give a long term climatic context for the event, which assesses whether it can be considered something out of the ordinary and therefore deserves payment. The PRISM climate mapping system is also being used to prepare crop suitability maps for the US. The idea is to help the crop insurance program better set premium rates based on the expected risk of growing a crop on a certain farm, given that farm's climate and soil conditions. This is especially useful for new crops that are not yet grown extensively in the US, such as dedicated biofuel feedstocks.

The data produced are of limited value if they are not easily available in forms required by the crop insurance industry. To this end, PRISM is working with OSU's Northwest Alliance for Computational Science and Engineering (NACSE) to develop web portals for crop insurance purposes. NACSE is a pioneer in the design of web sites that simplify the delivery of large amounts of information to users with varied backgrounds. This paper will provide an update on progress of the RMA-PRISM partnership, show examples of data and applications for crop insurance, and describe plans for the future.

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