Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » El Reno, Oklahoma » Oklahoma and Central Plains Agricultural Research Center » Research » Research Project #444612

Research Project: Enhancing Climate-smart Disaster Relief in FSA Programs: Non-stationarity at the Intersection of Normal Grazing Periods and US Drought Assessment

Location: Oklahoma and Central Plains Agricultural Research Center

Project Number: 3070-12610-001-016-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jul 1, 2023
End Date: Sep 30, 2026

This proposed work will contribute towards achieving the Executive Order 14008 Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad and Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government by 1) incorporating science into understanding and tracking climate-related impacts on annual grazing periods, 2) identifying solutions to address disproportionate impacts on underserved ranchers and communities, and 3) enhancing climate literacy in the USDA workforce and the people it serves. Likewise, this proposed work aligns with the USDA Climate Action Plan for Climate Adaptation and Resilience to help strengthen disaster assistance and relief programs by using the best-available science. Also, this work will identify risks to ranchers showing how the normal grazing season will change from current to future climate conditions, so that they can make climate-informed decisions for their operations. In addition, for the reasons provided above the proposed products will work towards implementing the Farm Service Agency’s Climate Action Plan, specifically Action Area 2: Improving science, research, and data for understanding, measuring, and tracking climate-related impacts and outcomes as well as Action Area 6: Address disproportionate impacts on underserved farmers and ranchers, and underserved communities. The maps developed from this project will contribute to the Forest Service Climate Action Plan, Action 4: Support the delivery of ecosystem products and services in a changing climate and Action 6: Increase agency capacity to respond to climate change. Specifically, the climate-based grazing maps will support Forest Service range managers to take flexible approaches to manage grazing. Likewise, these maps can be used by the Forest Service as they work with their partners to build resilience across all grazing lands.

Climate change is increasing global temperatures, altering precipitation patterns, and affecting growing seasons which in turn affect agricultural production. Climate change is also changing the character of drought, in some regions occurring in the context of background aridification or humidification. To help producers recover from droughts the USDA developed an expedited process so that drought disaster assistance was more efficient and timelier. The fast-track Secretarial disaster designation provides a nearly automatic designation during the normal grazing period when any portion of a county meets the severe drought (D2) condition for eight consecutive weeks or a higher drought intensity for any length of time as determined by the US Drought Monitor (USDM). However, the USDM has historically assessed drought using methods that do not account for climate change, which results in under or over assessing drought conditions in areas where the nature of drought is changing. Climate change, or climate non-stationarity, is thus affecting both disaster declarations and eligibility for FSA relief programs. Failing to consider climate change in disaster relief program eligibility can lead to inequities in USDA programming and drought disaster assistance. To help improve outcomes for agricultural producers and enhance climate literacy for FSA staff and ranchers, we propose an evaluation of current FSA normal grazing periods as they relate to LFP, DAP, and ELAP eligibility and provide science-based, climate-informed solutions to make disaster assistance more equitable. The findings from this proposed work will support FSA staff and ranchers in becoming more aware and resilient to drought and changing climate. Develop a peer review publication to re-assess normal grazing periods using NAP-190 guidance and latest NOAA climatologies, develop an alternative model of normal grazing period using MODIS dataset, and assess how normal grazing periods are anticipated to change using NASA-NEX-GDDP downscaled climate projection dataset. Produce maps comparing current normal grazing periods as implemented by FSA state offices to current and future normal grazing periods using NAP-190 guidance and satellite indices. Develop fact sheets and presentations summarizing results for FSA and Forest Service. Host a working meeting with OCE and FSA staff to share findings and co-develop solutions for more equitable program delivery. Write a report summarizing findings and solutions identified in the workshop. Share report and fact sheets via webinars by Climate Hub region with FSA state offices.