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West Virginia Risk Management Education

West Virginia Department of Agriculture and West Virginia University, Cooperating


Newspaper Article, written by Tom McConnell.  Published in the WV Market Bulletin and WV Farm Bureau News


Recognizing Risk Is First Step:

The West Virginia Risk Management Education Program


Farmers face great risk every day. Farmers joke about the “gamble” involved with their operations. Many experts argue that no industry faces more risk than American Agriculture. Risk is more complex than a single event like a drought or some other major event either natural or manmade. It is more often a subtle and quiet, everyday situation that grows in layers as the operation responds to external forces. No two people or farm situations carry exactly the same types of risk, nor the same amount of risk. And surely, no two people or farming operations possess neither the same capacity to tolerate nor the ability to manage, and eliminate risk. Importantly, most producers and their families aren’t aware of the magnitude of the risk they face. As farmers become more involved with their operations and their families and as they mature and “get used” to risk, often they discover they have been carrying great risk for many years and that has become a stress with prospects even more damaging that the risk itself.   


Agricultural risk is generally categorized into five types. The first is Production Risk, where farmers deal with weather, technology, and management skills to assure a crop and an acceptable yield. Price Risk, the most fickle and frustrating facet of agriculture where external forces play a major role in the operation’s well being, is next. Financial Risk is third; interest rates and loan repayment capacity needs no further recognition as a risk.  Legal Risk for West Virginia farmers involves real and perceived liability toward the his choice of fertilizer or pesticide, the way he spreads manure and maintains fences, or the quality and wholesomeness of one of his products. Last is Human Risk. How we allow our operations to dictate our health insurance, wellness, our retirement and long term plans defines this very important risk factor.

First farmers must first learn to recognize the risk in their lives and operations. Next they must begin to evaluate the level of risk they are willing to shoulder and identify the tools available to them to deal with risk.


Over one thousand fifty West Virginia farmers and their families have begun to manage the risk associated with their operations and lives as they attended 12 regional meetings during January. The classes taught by the local WVU Extension Agents in conjunction with the popular winter management dinner meeting series exposed the farmers to many of the risk issues they face on their farms. Next they were led through an exercise that allowed them to assess the risk they face and begin to recognize the relationship between “everyday” management decisions and risk management decisions.


The series will continue through February and March. For more information contact your extension agent. These dinner meeting are only part of the yearlong program sponsored by West Virginias Department of Agriculture and the West Virginia University Extension Service cooperating with the Risk Management Agency of the USDA also includes farmer contact specialty crop meetings, development of two pilot groups of farmers, and attendance at several fairs, festivals, and field days.