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Perception of the drought hazard on the Great Plains and its sociological impacts

Donna Louise Woudenberg, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Drought, a defining characteristic of the Great Plains, continues to be one of the most expensive natural disasters in the United States, with the lion’s share of financial losses shouldered by crop and livestock producers. These producer’s perceptions of and responses to drought were studied in the mid-1960s, the mid-1980s, and were examined again in this study, providing valuable longitudinal data. A number of direct and indirect impacts are experienced by non-farm businesses, communities, and individuals, as well. Some of those impacts have not been well researched and were integral to this project. Interviews with crop producers, livestock producers, and community members were conducted in Frontier County, Nebraska in late summer 2006. It was found that producers are very perceptive of the drought hazard, a result found in the two previous studies; recollections and estimates were well supported with 100 years of SPI and PDSI values. Adoption of drought mitigation practices has increased over the past 40 years. Producers were concerned about the myriad of factors they must consider when planning their farm/ranch operations, particularly as they are trying to adjust to water restrictions imposed as an outcome of the Kansas-Nebraska lawsuit on the Republican River (a task exacerbated by the long-term drought in recent years), but overall they are basically optimistic. Community members were very concerned about the future of farming and the quality of rural life. They expressed fears that changes in farming practices may lower the value of land, affect the tax base, and ultimately impact the school system and other county services. ^

Subject Area

Sociology, General|Atmospheric Sciences|Environmental Sciences

Recommended Citation

Woudenberg, Donna Louise, "Perception of the drought hazard on the Great Plains and its sociological impacts" (2007). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3243745.