Farmers face many challenges, like the weather and uncertain markets. Weather is an uncontrollable and unyielding phenomenon that affects all farmers. Markets, well, markets seem to shift like sand in a fast-flowing river. What can a farmer do to counter the often devastating effects of weather and uncertain markets? Is there anything a grower can do to survive and thrive through unpredictable weather, unfavorable growing seasons, changing markets, etc.? Insurance and good marketing strategies! Recently, the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center, Scottsbluff, hosted a “Risk and Reward: Using Crop Insurance and Marketing to Manage Farm Survival” seminar and workshop.

Farmers must make good insurance and marketing decisions to survive in the 2020’s. Most things in farming have changed over the years, like the rising costs of production. Decision making processes must also change. Decisions based on past production or performance may not suffice in today’s markets. “Decision making is about farm survival viewed through the lens of the decision maker,” said seminar presenter, Cory Walters, UNL Agriculture Economics Department, Lincoln. Insurance and good marketing strategies must be part of a farmer’s decision making, Walters expressed. Insurance is the guard rail, according to a report from North Central Extension Risk Management Education. The guard rail of insurance helps farmers survive if bad weather or something else pushes them off the road of production. Americans like insurance – auto insurance, home insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, health insurance, and many other types of insurance. We insure everything! Why not our livelihood? Crop and farm insurance that are specific to a producer help protect his/her livelihood. Besides, as Walters said, “I know of no one who has gone broke from purchasing insurance!” A woman attending the seminar, when asked her motive for coming, said, “I want to know how to benefit myself and others regarding crop insurance.”

Good marketing strategies provide a safety rail for the grower as well. According to Walters, a farmer must understand marketing risks and rewards. For example, Walters asked the question, “Would you cross a river that had an average depth of four feet?” Maybe. We want to know the deepest point – the risks. In a similar way, farmers must know the highs and lows of a market – the reward and risk to make good decisions. “Average” doesn’t reveal risk and reward. “Average’ is a caution sign” that begs more information to make informed marketing decisions, Walters expressed. A young farmer in attendance, Steve Kopetzky, when asked his reason for attending, said, “I need to know how to market better.” An older farmer, Howard Atkins, when asked the same question, said, “The hardest part of farming today is marketing. I want to know new marketing strategies.” Cliff Walker, also in attendance, shared the same reason for his presence at the seminar.

“Farmers need to know how to grow crops locally. Risks are specific to the location of the farm - filter risks and rewards, understand them, work through them, according to your specific location and production,” said Jessica Groskoph, Regional Extension Economist, UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center, Scottsbluff. Animals in the wild know their territory. They survive through awareness and use of everything in their specific location. In a similar way, farmers must know their territory – their land, soil, water, production practices, etc. Growers survive through awareness and use of everything in their specific location, including insurance and marketing that’s packaged to their specific location and needs. Whatever challenges farmers face today, insurance and marketing can help them survive and thrive. The ideal is to “use both insurance and marketing together to help farms survive,” said Groskoph.

UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center presents seminars and workshops on all kinds of agricultural topics intended to educate and benefit area farmers.

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