Date of this Version
Drought is the leading natural disaster in the United States in terms of monetary losses. The National Research Council (1995) estimates that drought costs the United States an average of $6–8 billion per year. Because of these losses and the great effects of drought on many citizens’ quality of life, drought planning is gaining widespread support in the United States. However, U.S. drought planning within the agricultural sector has historically focused on response measures that help producers, primarily farmers, deal with and recover from drought. It has been found that these often ad-hoc drought responses are very expensive and do little to reduce ongoing drought vulnerability (Wilhite, 1997).
Subsequently, current national drought planning efforts, as discussed in Preparing for Drought in the 21st Century (National Drought Policy Commission, 2000), have shifted to an emphasis on drought mitigation programs—that is, modifying operations before a drought strikes in order to reduce the impending negative impacts. In terms of agricultural drought planning, these programs necessitate increased communication between agricultural producers, private businesses, and government planners.
Since its inception in 1995, the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) has striven to promote drought mitigation planning and increase the communication between federal, state, and local drought planners. Essential in these endeavors is input from agricultural producers that deal with drought at the “ground level.” Therefore, a study was undertaken to gain insight into agricultural producers’ perceptions of current drought issues, which yielded valuable information on several topics, including perceptions of drought vulnerability, the use of climate forecast information, the implementation of drought mitigation measures, and the roles of external groups in drought planning.