“Ag in Uncertain Times—Managing Volatility”—A Multi-State Webinar Series on Economic Challenges for Ag Producers

Research Year: 

The financial crisis that hit the United States in 2009 and continued through 2010 has affected numerous sectors of the American economy, including agricultural enterprises. In general, the agricultural industry has always faced price fluctuations, but the rate of change for factors affecting the agricultural economy has accelerated. The market has become more volatile, requiring more skill on the part of agricultural producers in managing for risk. To present critical information to agricultural producers quickly, without requiring speakers or the audience to travel, a webinar was designed and presented through the Western Extension Committee, an organization of extension economists from the 13 western states, Guam and other Pacific Islands, supported by Cooperative Extension directors in the western region.

Description of Action: 

In 2009, the pioneering webinar series “Ag in Uncertain Times” was launched as a multi-state effort, covering the following topics: operating in the face of uncertain credit; operating in the face of uncertain markets; families facing uncertainty in agriculture; operating in risky environments; and managing agricultural enterprises in uncertain times. Its sequel in 2010, the four-part webinar “Managing Volatility in Agriculture,” featured four live, interactive 90-minute seminars on December 8, 9, 15 and 16, 2010. The sessions included Volatility in American Agriculture; Volatility and the Livestock Industry; Volatility and Grains; and Volatility and Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. Designed for agricultural lenders, producers, producer organizations, not-for-profit organizations, extension specialists and educators, agency personnel, crop insurance industry personnel, policy makers, and agricultural college leaders, the series emphasized management principles and tools that all producers can apply to their farm and ranch businesses to help manage the variety of risks associated with farm product and input price volatility.

The 2009 and 2010 webinar series featured live, interactive 60 to 90-minute seminars that included live audio, PowerPoint presentations, videos and slides, with questions taken using a chat feature during each presentation. Software and hardware were provided through Montana State University. These web seminar series were organized by the Western Extension Committee’s “Ag in Uncertain Times Team,” with members from land grant institutions in Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, California, Colorado and Washington and the Western Center for Risk Management Education at Washington State University Extension. The entire series of webinars remains available online as a resource for the agricultural industry and for extension educators to download and use as needed.


The “Managing Volatility in Agriculture” webinars offered in 2010 averaged about 75 to 80 people per session. According to post-session surveys, 98.6 percent of the respondents agreed that this webinar was worth their time and 72.7 agreed that they would likely participate in the next webinar. Eighty-two percent agreed their greatest take home message from the webinar was “a better understanding of the current underlying factors causing the new and/or increased market volatility.”

A pioneering effort, the “Ag in Uncertain Times” webinar drew widespread interest for each session offered during 2009. Praised as a unique, timely way to reach a wide audience simultaneously with a wealth of practical, expert information, the webinar series was recognized with two awards from the Western Agricultural Economics Association in 2010: the Outstanding Extension Project Group Award, and also the Award of Excellence for Multi-State Programs.

Conact Name: 
Trent Teegerstrom
Contact E-mail: