Thanks to a joint effort between USDA’s Risk Management Agency and National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS), limited resource farmers and African American producers of specialty crops and under-served commodities in Mississippi and Arkansas were instructed on how to develop personal risk management plans in five risk areas..
The courses consisted of three, day-long structured workshops, held roughly one month apart and lasting six hours each day. Participants, who attended workshops in either Pine Bluff, Arkansas or Jackson, Mississippi, were instructed on how to manage risk in the areas of production, marketing, financial, human resource and legal. The instructors included Dr. Albert Essel, Delaware State University and Dr. Laurence M. Crane, NCIS.
The classes were organized by NCIS and funded through a Cooperative Agreement from RMA, which selected several areas in the country where rural poverty was endemic, to focus its resources. Over the course of the workshops, participants were educated in the various risks they could expect when running farm and ranching operations. The goal was that by the end of the third class, each farmer would leave with his or her own personalized risk management plan in hand.
The seminars sought to educate producers through a combination of instruction, discussion, interactive group activity and roughly 60 hours of homework assignments (20 hours after each workshop). “These classes are a great opportunity to help a group of eager, hard-working farmers learn more about managing the risks they personally face on their farms and how to better prepare themselves for the adversity that is all too common in agriculture,” said Dr. Crane.
The classes also allowed farmers and producers to network and share best practices with their peers, helping to build valuable business connections that could prove profitable in the future. “Not only did students walk away with valuable risk management plans and risk mitigation strategies, they also made invaluable contacts with other farmers who have faced many of the same challenges they do,” said Dr. Essel.
Essel gave an overview of many of the risk mitigation strategies available to farmers, including crop insurance. “Crop insurance can be very important to farmers who are growing crops that are insurable,” he said.
Many of the students and local extension agents who attended, applauded the workshop series and expressed hopes that follow-up courses would follow. “In addition to the students who have already attended these course to have a refresher, there are many, many more people in this area who would benefit from attending this seminar who just couldn’t make it this year,” said John Coleman, a research associate with Alcorn State University’s extension program.