Forecast Skill and Farmers’ Skills: Seasonal Climate Forecasts and Agricultural Risk Management in the Southeastern United States

Todd A. Crane The University of Georgia, Griffin, Georgia

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Carla Roncoli The University of Georgia, Griffin, Georgia

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Joel Paz The University of Georgia, Griffin, Georgia

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Norman Breuer University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida

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Kenneth Broad University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida

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Keith T. Ingram University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

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Gerrit Hoogenboom The University of Georgia, Griffin, Georgia

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Abstract

During the last 10 yr, research on seasonal climate forecasts as an agricultural risk management tool has pursued three directions: modeling potential impacts and responses, identifying opportunities and constraints, and analyzing risk communication aspects. Most of these approaches tend to frame seasonal climate forecasts as a discrete product with direct and linear effects. In contrast, the authors propose that agricultural management is a performative process, constituted by a combination of planning, experimentation, and improvisation and drawing on a mix of technical expertise, situated knowledge, cumulative experience, and intuitive skill as farmers navigate a myriad of risks in the pursuit of livelihood goals and economic opportunities. This study draws on ethnographic interviews conducted with 38 family farmers in southern Georgia, examining their livelihood goals and social values, strategies for managing risk, and interactions with weather and climate information, specifically their responses to seasonal climate forecasts. Findings highlight the social nature of information processing and risk management, indicating that both material conditions and value-based attitudes bear upon the ways farmers may integrate climate predictions into their agricultural management practices. These insights translate into specific recommendations that will enhance the salience, credibility, and legitimacy of seasonal climate forecasts among farmers and will promote the incorporation of such information into a skillful performance in the face of climate uncertainty.

* Current affiliation: Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands.

+ Current affiliation: Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi.

Corresponding author address: Todd A. Crane, Technology and Agrarian Development, Wageningen University, Hollandseweg 1, 6706 KN Wageningen, Netherlands. Email: todd.crane@wur.nl

Abstract

During the last 10 yr, research on seasonal climate forecasts as an agricultural risk management tool has pursued three directions: modeling potential impacts and responses, identifying opportunities and constraints, and analyzing risk communication aspects. Most of these approaches tend to frame seasonal climate forecasts as a discrete product with direct and linear effects. In contrast, the authors propose that agricultural management is a performative process, constituted by a combination of planning, experimentation, and improvisation and drawing on a mix of technical expertise, situated knowledge, cumulative experience, and intuitive skill as farmers navigate a myriad of risks in the pursuit of livelihood goals and economic opportunities. This study draws on ethnographic interviews conducted with 38 family farmers in southern Georgia, examining their livelihood goals and social values, strategies for managing risk, and interactions with weather and climate information, specifically their responses to seasonal climate forecasts. Findings highlight the social nature of information processing and risk management, indicating that both material conditions and value-based attitudes bear upon the ways farmers may integrate climate predictions into their agricultural management practices. These insights translate into specific recommendations that will enhance the salience, credibility, and legitimacy of seasonal climate forecasts among farmers and will promote the incorporation of such information into a skillful performance in the face of climate uncertainty.

* Current affiliation: Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands.

+ Current affiliation: Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi.

Corresponding author address: Todd A. Crane, Technology and Agrarian Development, Wageningen University, Hollandseweg 1, 6706 KN Wageningen, Netherlands. Email: todd.crane@wur.nl

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