Reducing Forage Producers' Drought Vulnerability in the SE USA - Florida Climate Institute

Contact Person: Fraisse, Clyde

Collaborators: C. Fraisse, N.E. Breuer, J.O. Paz

Institutions: University of Florida

Funding Agency: NOAA/SARP

Start: July 2008    End: June 2011

Status: Funded

Filed Under: AgricultureExtension

Abstract: Drought conditions are a frequent occurrence in the Southeast. The severe drought of 2007 created a pasture and hay shortage throughout the region, greatly impacting farm finances and profit. In the Coastal Plain of Georgia, the Florida Panhandle, and the Northeast Central and Southwest regions of Florida, pasture conditions were mostly very poor and hay supply was exhausted at the initiation of summer. Most cattlemen were forced to feed supplemental hay and grain. Hay farmers are also experiencing high fertilizer prices, with little chance to recover input costs. Many producers, as part of the recommended practices to cope with drought, were weaning early or selling off some animals to decrease their stocking rate, with average weight at sale down in many areas. According to the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, drought conditions that have persisted throughout 2007 have caused losses of $787.2 million in production losses to Georgia's agricultural sector. Pasture losses are $264.7 million of grass for grazing. Hay losses of $83.8 million are 59% of normal production value. The main objective of this research project is to better understand the decision making process of forage producers as related to drought and develop a decision support system specifically designed to help forage producers cope and adapt to drought conditions in the southeastern USA. A simple, yet reliable water deficit index will be monitored and forecast based on weather data collected by weather networks in Florida and Georgia, short term weather forecast provided by the NWS, and ENSO phases. The system will also include suggested management options for current and anticipated drought conditions and developed with intensive stakeholder participation. Training workshops and outreach events will be conducted to train extension faculty and producers in the use of tools developed under this project. Venues will include field days, extension staff training, and regional meetings of producer associations.