Using Seasonal Precipitation Outlook Maps in PRF Planning

The deadline for Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage (PRF) signup on December 1st is coming up quickly. Whether you’ve had plenty of rain this year or are in a severe drought, it’s worth visiting with your crop insurance agent to review your PRF coverage. You may know PRF by its other name, ‘rainfall insurance’, a good name for a product that insures you against lower precipitation. You can find details on PRF’s structure, coverage options, premiums, and more here.

A key component of PRF coverage is selecting the correct interval(s), two-month periods through the year for which you will establish coverage against lower-than-average rainfall. There are many ways to choose the appropriate intervals and the share of coverage you intend to allocate to each. One tool is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Seasonal Color Outlook Maps. 

These maps express expectations for precipitation in terms of the chance that precipitation is above or below historic normal for the period; they aren’t necessarily indications of how much more or less precipitation to expect. For example, the map below represents expectations for the January to March quarter of 2023. You can see that forecasts for all of Texas and Florida, along with portions of coastal states from Louisiana, up to North Carolina, suggest a 33-50% chance of precipitation being ‘Below Normal’ for these months. The same forecasts for parts of Kentucky, Arkansas, and Tennessee suggest a 33-40% chance of ‘Above Normal’ precipitation. Other maps detailing later 2023 forecast similar expectations through the April-May-June period, when La Nina conditions are forecast to break and ‘Normal’ precipitation conditions are expected to return to the south. 

Using these maps together across a year may be a good place to start picking intervals to allocate coverage. Though these maps can’t necessarily tell you what share of precipitation to insure, they can indicate the intervals more likely than others to see ‘Below Normal’ precipitation, precisely the metric indemnities from PRF are based. Consider southeastern Georgia. The map below suggests a 50% chance of ‘Below Normal’ precipitation from January to March. Corresponding maps on NOAA’s website show Equal Chances (corresponding to roughly ‘Normal’ precipitation) beginning in March and holding throughout the year. Keeping in mind that PRF indemnities are based on actual rainfall compared to historical averages, these maps suggest that a producer may consider weighting a greater share of their coverage to the first quarter of 2023 compared to the last three quarters of 2023. 

There are plenty of other considerations to make when allocating coverage. This is just one simple tool to consider when assessing your options. You can find the NOAA Seasonal Precipitation Outlook maps here, and if you have more questions on PRF coverage, visit your USDA certified crop insurance provider or your local Extension faculty about your options. 

Author: Justin Benavidez

Assistant Professor – Management Economist, District 1

Benavidez, Justin. “Using Seasonal Precipitation Outlook Maps in PRF Planning.Southern Ag Today 2(47.3). November 16, 2022. Permalink