Area farmers who planted cover crops during the 2021 crop year may be eligible to receive a $5 per acre premium thanks to a new pandemic-related program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture if they submit the necessary paperwork by June 15.
The Pandemic Cover Crop Program, announced June 1 by the USDA, offers premium support to producers who insured their spring crop with most insurance policies and planted a qualifying cover crop during the 2021 crop year.
Qualifying cover crops include cereals, grasses, legumes, brassicas, non-legume broadleaves and mixes of two or more cover crop species planted at the same time.
The new federal cover crop premium program is modeled on state-level programs in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, which Practical Farmers of Iowa helped to launch.
“This new program is exciting because it could help open the door to a discount on crop insurance, since farmers planting cover crops would be at less risk,” says Sarah Carlson, strategic initiatives director for Practical Farmers of Iowa. “The goal is that farmers using soil health practices are given a ‘good driver’ discount.”
The Pandemic Cover Crop Program is being offered by USDA’s Risk Management Agency and is part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative.
Farmers in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana – which all have state-level crop insurance premiums for cover crops – are still eligible to receive the additional federal premium.
To receive the benefit, producers must file a Report of Acreage form (FSA-578) for cover crops with USDA’s Farm Service Agency by June 15, 2021.
In 2017, PFI worked with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Farmers Union and Natural Resources Defense Council to pilot the first state-level cover crop insurance premium program in Iowa.
“We continued to work with NRDC and IFU to get surrounding states to try it,” Sarah says. “We added Illinois in 2019, and Indiana last year.”