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Extreme weather spurred high insurance payments for Oklahoma farmers

Wheat and Forages Field Day in Sourth Central Research Station on Wednesday, April 27, 2022. (Photo by Alisa Gore/OSU Agriculture) (Photo by Mitchell Alcala/OSU Agriculture)
Alisa Gore
OSU Agriculture
Wheat is the top crop grown in Oklahoma.

In the past 21 years, about $2.1 billion in drought insurance payments went to Oklahoma farmers, according to a new study from the Environmental Working Group.

The organization focused on the top weather-related causes of loss for farmers in the analysis. The most expensive causes of loss are drought, excessive moisture and precipitation, heat, freeze and hail.

Anne Schechinger, an agricultural economist and the Environmental Working Group’s Midwest director, said severe weather prompted $118.7 billion in crop insurance payouts nationally from 2001-2022.

“So, that's a really large amount of money,” Schechinger said. “Extreme weather conditions that are tied to climate change are triggering almost three-fourths of crop insurance payments.”

Drought was the priciest cause of loss in the study.

Most drought payouts went to 10 states in the Great Plains, including Oklahoma which rankedninth in drought payments and fourth in freeze payments. Schechinger said insurance costs from weather tied to climate change have been increasing.

“So it's just really important for farmers to be adapting to climate change.” Schechinger said. “Doing things to make their farms more resilient, to kind of reduce the cost to both farmers and taxpayers of this program going forward.”

Schechinger said as climate change progresses bringing extreme weather conditions, the number of insurance payments will increase.

Extreme weather has also led to more government assistance. The United States Department of Agriculture is offering about $3 billion to producers who weathered natural disasters in 2022 in its latest round of financial assistance through the Emergency Relief Program.

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Anna Pope is a reporter covering agriculture and rural issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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