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This page is intended to be a source of information for agricultural producers and management professionals on how to make their operations more resilient to the impacts of extreme weather and climate events. Our Team is dedicated to providing you with real stories from real producers in our region.

This information is available as regularly updated blogs, videos, podcasts, and public service announcements.

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Blog: Southern Plains Perspective

Sharing information on strategies to help agriculture and rural communities to deal with climate change and other natural resource challenges.


Conflicting ag headlines can make you scratch your head.

“WHEAT YEILDS IMPROVE WITH NO-TILL.” That was the banner headline that came to my inbox today.  It seems that a study released this summer by the Washington State Department of Agriculture showed that over 72% of dry-land wheat producers in that state were growing their crops using no-till or minimum-till farming practices and of those producers, nearly half were seeing yield increases while also seeing reductions in equipment costs, labor costs and in some cases, fertilizer costs.   The study went on to say that no-tillers in Washington were seeing increases in soil moisture retention and reductions in run-off and erosion (especially among those no-tillers who also utilized cover crops). 

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?  Higher yields, lower costs, more sub-soil moisture, and less erosion.   This ought to be something more farmers look at possibly adopting, right?

Well, that leads to the next headline that I saw—“NO-TILL, COVER CROP ADOPTION LAGS IN U.S.”  This article stated that USDA Economic Research Service is reporting that just 34.6% of U.S. cropland is farmed using no-till practices and that less than 3% is cover cropped.

So what gives?  If you can realize higher yields, reduce costs, hold on to more moisture and lose less soil, why are the adoption rate on practices like no-till and cover crops so low?

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that everyone has a different reality, whether financial, geographical, or cultural. No one size fits all, and there can be numerous reasons why a producer might be hesitant to make major changes in their operation. After all, converting to something like no-till isn’t cheap.  The price of a new, good-sized mechanical no-till drill can run well over $100 thousand.  Air seeders cost even more.  Factor in the cost of a sprayer and you start to see that making the switch from conventional till to no-till can be pricey.  

Peer pressure can also be a factor in people’s minds. Want to get the local coffee shop crowd talking?  Switch to no-till and plant covers in the summer after winter wheat.  Everyone will want to know what you’re doing and will be happy to share their opinion about how covers will suck up all the sub-soil moisture and cause more weeds in your next wheat crop.  They will make sure you know that you must establish a good seedbed for your crop and that you have to ‘open the ground up to take in a rain.’  Don’t you know that kind of farming might work somewhere else, but it won’t here?

All of this, combined with an aging population of producers who by necessity, have to be conservative in their business dealings (U.S. Farmers and Ranchers have an average age of around 58) can create some strong headwinds that hold back many from adopting climate-smart agriculture practices. 

The good news is that there is help in overcoming these barriers.   USDA is investing  record dollars in programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to help with the financial challenges of adopting practices like no-till. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is also working with its partners (including the Climate Hub Network) to help spread the word on the benefits that soil-health and climate-smart farming techniques can bring to producers.  In some states like Oklahoma, this also includes state and local partners establishing mentoring and support networks to help answer questions and provide ‘moral support’ when the coffee shop crowd gets a new no-till adopter down.

Change is never easy, even when you can see the chance for something better.  USDA is helping to make that change a little easier.   

September 27, 2023


Have you lost livestock due to heat?  Now would be a good time to talk to the USDA Farm Service Agency.

This has not been a fun summer weather-wise.   We all know that story…heat domes, flash droughts, record temperatures and heat indexes.  It has just been nasty.

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog asking if we were thinking enough about how to deal with the extreme conditions impacting the region (you can find it here) The main thrust of this piece was how we need to give some serious thought into getting ready for whatever Mother Nature throws our way, be it heat, cold, rain or drought.  However, sometimes you get hit by the impact of natural disasters no matter what you do.  Luckily, USDA has several programs to help producers deal with the impact of these events—and it just so happens that they recently updated one program designed to help livestock producers to better reflect current trends in the industry.

The USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced that it is updating the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) payment rate to better assist Midwest livestock producers that have lost cattle to the extreme heat and humidity that impacted the region this summer. To help indemnify ranchers to reflect a trend towards higher cattle weights in feedlots, the 2023 LIP payment rate for beef calves over 800 pounds will increase from $1244 per head to $1618, an increase of $374.

In a statement released earlier this month, FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux said that “The recent heat domes plaguing many parts of the country have proven to be unsurvivable for some animals and temperatures are not expected to let up any time soon. This is one of the latest, many examples of how a changing climate is creating immediate challenges for farmers and ranchers, and we’re finding that our emergency relief programs need to adapt accordingly.  Given these circumstances and the trend towards higher weights in feedlots, it became clear that USDA’s Livestock Indemnity Payment rates were not reflective of the true market value for cattle. This change will better indemnify the investments producers have in the livestock they raise, and we will continue to find flexibilities where possible to help 

The updated LIP payment rate is effective immediately and will be applied retroactively starting Jan.1, 2023, for all eligible causes of loss, not just those due to excessive heat.  This will also include tornados, winter storms, and other qualifying adverse weather events. Producers who have already received LIP payments for 2023 losses will receive an additional payment, if applicable, commensurate with this updated rate. 

LIP provides benefits to livestock owners and some contract growers for livestock deaths exceeding normal mortality from eligible adverse weather events, certain predation losses and reduced sales prices due to injury from an eligible loss. Indemnity payments are made at a rate of 75% of the prior year’s average fair market value of the livestock.

For more information, you can check out the press release from FSA concerning this change here or contact your local USDA Service Center.

September 1, 2023


Another week, another story about how the changing climate is impacting insurance. 

Another Story hit the press this month about how the cost of natural disasters impacts the insurance industry.   It seems that companies that “reinsure” insurance policies—that is those companies that provide the financial backstop to the company that issues your home insurance—are getting more and more concerned about how major storm events are taking a bite out of their bottom lines. 

When an area gets hit with a catastrophic event like a hurricane, wildfire, or tornado, reinsurance companies step in with cash (generally large amounts of cash) to cover the cost if the damage is too widespread and pricey for an insurance company to cover on their own. These companies are now raising their prices due to the losses that have continued to grow as extreme storm events become more and more common.  

In the weeks leading up to January 1, when about half of these reinsurance policies are generally renewed, it was reported that many reinsurers broke the news to the insurance companies they underwrite that their prices were going up.  It seems that reinsurers have lost money over the last four or five years as they competed to offer the best terms to customers and still deal with disasters like the wildfires that devastated the Hawaiian town of Lahaina and the storms that tore apart roofs from Alabama to Massachusetts in early August.  

Due to these losses, prices for reinsurance had to go up.  When these policies go up, insurance companies either feel the squeeze, increase rates or are (if the costs are high enough) forced to pull completely out of markets where they are dealing with more risk.  That’s why many insurance companies have pulled back from offering coverage in certain areas or cut the kinds of damage they will pay to repair—I wrote about this in an earlier blog-(

This story went on to say that since the beginning of the year, insurance companies have paid out $40 billion to U.S. customers, putting them on track for another record in yearly losses. These losses were then passed on to reinsurers.  According to a report by Gallagher Re, a brokerage firm that puts together reinsurance coverage deals, this hit to the bottom line of reinsurance companies has resulted in an increase in reinsurance policies of as much as 40 percent.  This was one of the factors that some insurance companies cited when they stopped writing homeowner policies in parts of California due to wildfire risk.

And if you think this is just hitting homeowners in certain places, you should know that last month the Des Moines Register reported that these same costs were also forcing one agriculture insurance company to pull out of Iowa.  Granted, Federal Crop Insurance works a little differently than homeowners’ insurance, and farmers in Iowa may still get coverage, but this drives home the point that risks from extreme weather ARE increasing, and there are economic consequences that we are all going to have to deal with from all of this. 

So what do we do?

Obviously, we can’t control the weather.  We can, however, take steps that can help us reduce the impact extreme events can have on our homes, our outbuildings, our livestock and our crops.    I would again remind folks that help is available to help harden your operation to extreme weather.  You would do well to talk to the folks at your local USDA Service Center to see what options you have to better manage your soil to hold on to moisture when it rains and to control erosion with the help of NRCS.  You also can make sure you are taking full advantage of the risk management tools available through the USDA RMA and FSA.  You also should ask your local cooperative extension folks for tips on how to fire-wise your farmstead or better prepare for extreme events like swings in heat and cold.   

This issue is not going away. The more we ignore it, the more likely it will cost us in the future.  

August 22, 2023


Extreme weather continues making headlines in the region.  Are we giving enough thought on how to get ready for it?

“Heat, humidity kills hundreds of US cattle during world's hottest month.”

That was the headline from the first story that popped up on my computer this morning when I started searching for topics to write about.   The article went on to talk about how hundreds of cattle died in Iowa from extreme heat and humidity in late July 2023—what now is being touted as the world’s hottest recorded month ever.

As of this writing, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is reporting that it received requests on July 31 to dispose of approximately 370 cows that died due to heat in western Iowa. The article also stated that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said that it had received requests for the disposal of 50 head of cattle that died due to the heat—a far cry from the over 2,000 head that died from an extreme heat wave (and the lack of wind) in June of 2022—but a sizeable one-month number none the less. 

This article was followed by another story describing a recent presentation made by Dr. Amanda Silva, small grains extension specialist from Oklahoma State University, about the 2023 wheat crop. Silva said this year has been extremely challenging for winter wheat in Oklahoma.  According to Dr. Silva there were issues with drought almost the entire season until harvest when there was too much moisture.

“That was the longest harvest we have had in a long time in the program,” Silva was quoted as saying.

Moving further south,  I came across an article that asked in big, bold type, “Is the current drought in Central Texas worse than the disastrous one of 2011?”  It seems that the city of Austin has dealt with 28 straight days of 100-degree-plus weather.  This sets a record that beats the previous string of 27 consecutive days of 100 degree or more weather that was set in the horrible, horrible drought year of 2011 and there appears to be no let-up in sight. 

If all that isn’t enough, consider what’s going on in the High Plains of Texas because it’s just as strange.  Lubbock and its surrounding area received over 130% of its normal rainfall in May and June while the Panhandle received over 200% of normal precipitation.  This helped keep the region slightly cooler than the rest of the state at the start of the summer and free from drought. Now, however, heat waves are sapping the moisture from the ground.

“Unless some rainfall appears soon, these high-temperature anomalies will increase through the end of July,” said Victor Murphy with the National Weather Service (Mr. Murphy is often a guest on our podcast—if you are interested you hear past episodes with him here). According to Victor, the average low nighttime temperature for Lubbock this month has been 71.2 degrees Fahrenheit, about 2.4 degrees warmer than normal, making it the ninth-warmest period on record. This is leading to concerns about how crops and livestock aren’t getting relief from the heat at night. 

He goes on to say that this warming trend is being seen nationwide. In the last 30 days, there have been more than 2,800 times a city or town’s coolest nighttime temperature was hotter than previous records. 

“One of the prevailing wisdoms with climate change is that the biggest impact, at least initially, will be felt in warmer nighttime temperatures,” Murphy said. “It’s especially difficult on cattle and livestock, they have a difficult time cooling off at night.”

So, what does this all mean?

It means that the crazy weather we have always seen on the Southern Plains has been shot full of steroids.  It means that we need to take seriously the advice that we have been hearing for years now to prepare for extreme weather swings that are becoming more and more prevalent as our climate changes.  We need to consider “hardening” our farming and ranching operation to extreme weather by implementing management practices that help us hold on to more water when we do get heavy rains (while also controlling soil erosion).   These same practices also allow us a cushion of additional soil moisture to better weather extended dry periods.  We also need to consider what changes we can make to better prepare our livestock for stress from extreme heat and cold. Your local USDA Service Center can help you with suggestions on what steps you can take and what funding might be available to help you make changes.  You can also touch base with the extension service in your state for tips and suggestions. 

The news about crazy weather just keeps coming.   We have to do all we can to be ready. 

August 11, 2023


Coming to a TV station near you-Severe Wildfire warnings

August 2, 2023.

Record rain, record heat, sudden changes and more wild weather on the way.  When it comes to weather, “the Summer of surprises” keeps on surprising. 

July 26, 2023

Just sittin’ around repeating myself---we need to take extreme weather adaptation seriously because climate change is real and it’s having economic impacts!!!

July 10, 2023

Burnin’ like a heat wave…and it looks to get worse.

June 30, 2023

Genetic engineering and heat stress: can gene splicing help deal with heat stress in cattle?

June 22, 2023

 Are we underestimating the risk of extreme weather in the wheat belt? 

June 13, 2023

Podcasts: Southern Plains Podcast


Special Episode, Victor Murphy, National Weather Service

In our latest episode of the podcast, we again talk to Victor Murphy with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, Texas about current conditions in the region and what to expect weather-wise over the next few weeks and months. (Recorded August 17, 2023)


#71, Mark Goeller, Oklahoma State Forester, Wildfire Warning System

Can we set up wildfire warnings in a manner similar to tornado or thunderstorm warnings?  Can we predict where a burn is going to happen and put it out before you even start to see smoke?  That is what they are doing in Oklahoma and we discuss it all with Mark Goeller, Oklahoma State Forester in our latest episode.  (Recorded July 31, 2023)


Special Episode, Matthew Sittel, Kansas Assistant State Climatologist

In this special episode of the podcast, we visit with Matthew Sittel, Assistant State Climatologist in Kansas about the weather conditions in Kansas and what the outlook shows over the next weeks and months. (Recorded July 24, 2023)


#70, Brad Rippey, USDA Meteorologist, Texas Heat Dome, El Nino, and Wild Weather

In our latest episode, we visit with Brad Rippey, Meteorologist with USDA in Washington D.C. about the heat dome over Texas, the possibility of a super El Nino, and the wild weather we are facing in 2023. (Recorded June 30, 2023)


Special Episode, Victor Murphy, National Weather Service

In this special episode of the podcast, we again visit with Victor Murphy of the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, Texas about current conditions in Oklahoma and Texas and what the future will bring the region weather-wise.  (Recorded June 15, 2023)


#69, Dr. Amy Hagerman, Oklahoma State University, Climate Conversations with Conservation

What do NRCS, Conservation District and State Conservation employees think about climate change and what do they know about how conservation programs can help ag producers both adapt to the changing climate while mitigating some of climate change's root causes? 

Those were the questions Dr. Amy Hagerman asked conservation employees and conservation district directors in Oklahoma this last fall.    In our latest episode of the podcast, we talk with her about her findings and what information she gleaned from her climate conversations with conservation. (Recorded May 31, 2023)


Special Episode, Victor Murphy, National Weather Service

In this special edition, of the podcast we again talk to Victor Murphy with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, Texas about current conditions in the Southern Plains and what we can expect weather-wise over the next few months. (Recorded May 15, 2023)


#68, Dana Ashford-Kornburger, NRCS National Climate Coordinator

In this episode of the podcast, we visit with Dana Ashley Kornbuger, the National Climate Coordinator at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) about the work the agency is doing to help farmers and ranchers adapt to our changing climate while addressing some of the climate changes root causes. (Recorded May 1, 2023)


Special Episode, Gary McManus, Oklahoma State Climatologist

In this episode of the podcast, we visit with Oklahoma State Climatologist Gary McManus about current weather conditions in Oklahoma and the region and what the outlook shows moving forward through the Spring, Summer, and Fall.  (Recorded April 5, 2023)


Special Episode, Matthew Sittel, Asst. Kansas Climatologist

In this special episode of the podcast, we visit with Matthew Sittel, the Assistant State Climatologist for the State of Kansas about the ongoing drought, current weather conditions, and what the outlook shows moving forward through the spring and summer. (Recorded March 23, 2023)


#67, Dr. Kevin Wagner, Director, Water Resources Center at Oklahoma State University - Virtual Fencing

In this episode of the podcast, we visit with Dr. Kevin Wagner, head of the Water Resources Center at Oklahoma State University about their research work with virtual fencing systems and how these systems could help producers and assist in natural resource work. (Recorded March 9, 2023)

Special Episode, Victor Murphy, National Weather Service, Ft. Worth, TX

In this episode of the podcast, we again visit with Victor Murphy with the National Weather Service in Ft. Worth, Texas about the current weather conditions in the region and what the outlook shows over the next few weeks and months.

#66, Adam York, Sustainability Director, National Sorghum Producers - Climate Smart Commodities Initiative with Sorghum

In our latest podcast episode, we visit with Adam York, Sustainability Director for the National Sorghum Producers, about their new climate-smart commodities initiative with USDA and how grain sorghum can be part of how producers deal with extreme weather challenges. (Recorded February 13, 2023) 

#65, Dr. Jean Steiner, Science Coordinator, Sustainable SW Beef Project

The Ogallala Aquifer has a huge impact on agriculture and communities throughout the western portion of the Great Plains.  In this episode of the podcast, we visit with Dr. Jean Steiner, Adjunct Professor at Kansas State University and Science Coordinator with the Sustainable Southwest Beef Project about some of the challenges facing the Aquifer in Kansas as well as some of the ways that producers can help extend the life of this critical resource. (Recorded January 25, 2023)

Special Episode, Victor Murphy, National Weather Service, Ft. Worth, TX

In this special episode of the podcast, we again visit with Victor Murphy from the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, Texas about the latest weather conditions in Oklahoma and Texas and what the outlook is like moving forward through January and on into spring. (Recorded January 10, 2023)

#64, Julian Reyes, National Coordinator, USDA Climate Hubs Network, Washington D.C.

In this last episode of 2022, we visit with Julian Reyes, the National Coordinator of the USDA Climate Hub Network in Washington, D.C. Julian talks to us about the History of the Hubs, the work they do, and what some of the initiatives in store for 2023. (Recorded December 30, 2022)

Special Episode, Matthew Sittel, Kansas Assistant State Climatologist

In this special episode of the podcast, we visit with Matthew Sittel, Assistant State Climatologist in Kansas.   Mr. Sittel talks to us about the Kansas Mesonet system, the current drought impacting his state, and what the weather forecast looks like for Kansas moving forward over the next few weeks and months. (Recorded December 20, 2022)

#63, Amanda Mathis, Acting Oklahoma NRCS State Conservationist

In this episode of the podcast, we visit with Amanda Mathis, the Acting State Conservationist for NRCS in Oklahoma.   Amanda talks to us about her work for NRCS both as acting State Conservationist in Oklahoma and as the Assistant Conservationist for Partners in Arkansas and about some of the current initiatives at NRCS including the ongoing work to help producers through the drought and the upcoming push for Climate Smart Conservation practices funded by the Inflation Reduction Act. (Recorded November 30, 2022)


Videos: Southern Plains Perspective

Voices from the Drought: Daryl Donohue, South East Kansas

In this latest video in our ongoing "Voices from the drought" series we visit with Daryl Donohue from South East Kansas about the impact the drougth is having on his operation and how some of the practices he has implemented on his land have helped deal with the dry conditions. (Recorded January 22, 2023)

Voices from the Drought: Michael Thompson, Northwest Kansas

In this latest video in our ongoing "Voices from the drought" series we visit with Michael Thompson from Almena, Kansas. Mr. Thompson talks to us about the impact the drought has had on his operation this year, his plans moving forward over the winter and spring and how soil health practices have helped him better weather the dry conditions. (Recorded January 4, 2023).

Voices from the Drought: Laura Gay Burdick, Palo Pinto County Texas 

This is the first in our series of videos highlighting the impact of the ongoing drought on farmers and ranchers in the Southern Plains region of the United States. In this video we visit with Laura Gay Burdick, a rancher from Palo Pinto County Texas and the Chair of her local Soil and Water Conservation District Board about the impact the drought is having on her operation. (Recorded October 6, 2022).

Voices from the Drought: Matt Muller, Martha Oklahoma

This is the second video in our series "Voices from the Drought." In this short video we visit with Matt Muller, a cotton, wheat and grain sorghum producer from Southwest Oklahoma about the impact the drought is having on his operation this year and how some of his practices are helping him cope. (Recorded October 20, 2022)

Public Service Announcements (PSA)

The Southern Plains Climate Hub, in partnership with Redlands Community College and USDA NRCS, is promoting soil health as a tool for climate change adaptation and to help producers adapt to extreme weather events. As part of this promotional effort, the Hub is developing a series of Public Service Announcements (PSAs) featuring producers from across the Southern Plains speaking on the benefits of soil health management. 


Kenneth McAlister grows cotton, corn, milo, canola, wheat, sesame, peanuts and soybeans near the Red River in Wichita County Texas.  He has been no-tilling his land since 2005 and has been utilizing cover crops for the last 4 years.


Scott Carpenter is a conservation district director and wheat producer from Nocona, Texas.  He utilizes cover crops and no-till on his land to hold on to more water and reduce erosion on his land.


A cotton, peanut, corn and wheat producer from Morton Texas, Glen Lyon rotates crops on his 7,500 acre farm to reduce erosion and increase the water holding capacity of the soil.


A Farmer and Rancher from Norton, Kansas, Rusty Miller understands the importance of controlling erosion and increasing soil moisture.  Rusty incorporates cover crops and grazing into his cropping systems to help increase the health of his soil and improve his bottom line by reducing fuel costs and increasing fertilizer efficiency.


Michael Thompson is a farmer/rancher from Almena, KS. Michael along with his father Richard and his brother Brian operate Thompson Farm & Ranch LLC. The farm is comprised of acreage in Norton County, KS, and Furnas County, NE, and grows wheat, corn, oats, barley, as well as cover crop cocktails. The ranch consists of a cow/calf operation that grazes on native range and diverse cover crops on farmland acres.


Lance Feikert is the fifth generation farmer and rancher from Bucklin, Kansas. He raises wheat, milo and soybeans on dryland and irrigated acres. He also utilizes cattle in his operation to better utilize crops and encourage better soil health.With less water available to pump each year, many of his irrigated fields are becoming more like their dryland counterparts. No-till helps him make the most of limited resources. Lance says no-till practices improve the microbial community under the soil and helps increase water infiltration.


Steve Pope is a 6th generation Western Oklahoma farmer and rancher.  He has been no-tilling for over 13 years and incorporates cover crops and grazing into his cropping systems.  Steve participates in USDA conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)


Jimmy Emmons is a life-long farmer and ranchers from Leedey, Oklahoma.  A local conservation district board member and a past President of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD), Jimmy knows the importance of conserving our soil, water, air and wildlife habitats while working to protect the bottom lines of agriculture producers.


Grant Victor is a Northeast Oklahoma agriculture producer and the winner of the 2016 Outstanding Landowner Award from the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts and the Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma.   A life-long resident of Afton, Oklahoma, Grant uses soil health practices to improve productivity on his land while controlling run-off and soil erosion.