Natural Resources, School of


Document Type


Date of this Version



Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems: 26(3); 255–266; doi:10.1017/S174217051100010X


Copyright Cambridge University Press 2011


Social factors, such as farming methods, have an impact on farm vulnerability to drought, but have received little research or policy attention. Some researchers and advocates have argued that sustainable agriculture systems are less vulnerable to climate risk than conventional systems because sustainable agriculture requires producers to have skills promoting adaptability. In this paper, we investigate producers’ perceptions on the use of sustainable agriculture in reducing drought risk, and what they believe would help them better adapt to drought. We surveyed and interviewed farmer members of two sustainable agriculture organizations in Nebraska, USA, during a multi-year drought period from 1999 to 2007. Producers reported implementing a range of practices, such as organic soil building techniques, reduced tillage, targeted crop selection and diversification of crop and livestock production systems, to reduce their drought vulnerability. Although some practices were implemented specifically to reduce drought risk, producers felt that the practices they implemented as part of their normal operation were largely responsible for reducing their risk. Respondents held mixed views on the effects of insurance and farm programs on their drought management decisions. Finally, producers indicated that their ability to adapt to drought is limited by a number of barriers, especially a lack of capital and the need to respond to markets and maximize production to maintain cash flows.