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WSU to Lead 13-State Risk Management Project

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University will use a $150,000 competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative States Research Education and Extension Service to lead a risk management education effort in 13 western states.

The grant was announced in Washington, D.C., by Sen. Patty Murray.  “With current conditions, our growers need all the help they can get,” Murray said.  “A better understanding of risk management will help our growers weather the ups and downs of a volatile market.”

Current conditions make the training especially timely, according to Jim Zuiches, dean of WSU’s College of Agriculture and Home Economics.  “One of the major issues facing agriculture today is the declining export market in southeast Asia.  Many farmers in the West depend on those markets and must manage the risk associated with the loss of such markets.”

Jonathan Newkirk, an economist, who chairs the WSU Adams County Cooperative Extension in Ritzville, will serve as western regional coordinator for risk management education for the USDA-CSREES.  He will coordinate efforts in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California, Alaska and Hawaii.

“The 1996 farm bill, often called the Freedom to Farm bill, ushered in a new era for American farmers,” Newkirk said.  “It removed much of the government safety net so that risk management became each farmer’s individual responsibility,”

He said training will target agribusinesses—third party providers–as well as producers and cover price and marketing risk; production risks, such as crops losses due to hail;  legal risks; financial risks and risks related to farm families and labor.

“There are a number of very important risk management issues for farm businesses,” Newkirk said, “but given the existing economic situation in agriculture, we are going to refocus some of this money on family stress, an important issue that surfaced during the farm crisis of the 1980’s.”

He said the grant will help states enhance existing risk management education programs or start new ones.  “We have proposals from each state.  They’re going to use some of the money to do marketing, financial management, workshops or train agents in those areas.  There’s also money to initiate some risk management education at the 1994 land-grant institutions, which are tribal colleges.”

Newkirk will work closely with the USDA Risk Management Agency and the agencies regional coordinators in Spokane; Billings, Mont.; and Sacramento, Calif.  He will be one of five USDA regional risk management coordinators around the country.

(Editors and broadcasters: Newkirk can be reached at (509) 659-3211, Office;  by cell phone at (509) 660-0352).

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