close-up of cover crops
SIGN UP: Iowa is breaking new ground with an innovative incentive to expand cover crop acres. Farmers are encouraged to take advantage of a new crop insurance discount for using cover crops.

Using covers? Apply for crop insurance discount

Deadline is Jan. 15 to apply for reduced crop insurance premium if you qualify with cover crops.

Iowa farmers who qualify can earn a $5-per-acre discount on crop insurance premiums for corn and soybeans they plant in 2018 if they seeded a cover crop on those acres in fall 2017. This pilot program announced by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship aims to increase the acreage of cover crops.

Deadline to apply is 5 p.m. Jan. 15, and cover crop acres enrolled in state or federal cost-share programs aren’t eligible for this new program. IDALS worked with USDA’s Risk Management Agency to launch the three-year project. IDALS has an online sign-up and application process for farmers and landowners to certify eligible land at cleanwateriowa.org/covercropdemo.

“We see this new crop insurance premium reduction as a great way to reach a broader group of farmers and landowners to promote continued interest in planting cover crops,” says Mike Naig, Iowa deputy secretary of agriculture. “This streamlined incentive along with traditional state and federal cost-share programs provides farmers and landowners with a variety of options to gain experience with cover crops and expand their use.”

Heather Manzano, acting administrator of RMA, notes: “Crop insurance is critical to the health of the rural economy, and proper use of cover crops is critical to the health of the soil that farmers need. Research has shown cover crops can help prevent erosion and improve water quality, among other benefits.”

Rules determine which acres qualify
The premium reduction is available for fall-planted cover crops with a spring-planted cash crop, Naig says. Some policies may be excluded, such as Whole-Farm Revenue Protection or those covered through written agreements. He encourages farmers and landowners to visit the website to learn about the program and to contact IDALS with questions.

Eligible cover crop plantings must use USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service seeding recommendations, highlighting seeding dates, appropriate seeding rates and best agronomic practices. IDALS will verify acres based on applications received, and confirmed applications will be forwarded to RMA for processing on 2018 crop insurance premiums.

The cover crops can be grazed as forage for livestock but can’t be harvested for grain. Currently, there is no limit on the number of acres an individual  can apply for, and 200,000 total acres have been funded for the program for fall 2017 cover crop seeding.

Additional funding options will be explored if needed to meet demand, say IDALS officials. Funding is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Advantages of new incentive
“There are several advantages to this program, as the goal is to accelerate adoption of cover crops to improve soil health and water quality,” says Ben Gleason, sustainable program manager for the Iowa Corn Growers Association. Advantages include:
• encourages landowner participation provides a streamlined process for farmers and landowners to apply
• covers more acres through reduced costs per acre
• counters the perception that crop insurance penalizes cover crop usage by non-cover crop users
• reaches nearly every farm operation in Iowa
• provides more flexibility and options for participants

“The discount will apply to 2018 crop insurance for row crops planted on cover crop acres seeded in fall 2017, and applicants should keep records of the cover crops, such as seed bills, etc.,” says Gleason. “IDALS will cross-reference applications with state and federal cost-share programs to avoid duplication. Acres currently enrolled in state cost-share programs, such as the Water Quality Initiative and the Iowa Financial Incentives Program, or federal programs such as EQIP and CSP, aren’t eligible for this new program.”

Double-check with your crop insurance agent to be sure the company is participating in the program and that you purchase the correct crop insurance product to receive the discount for 2018. Acres certified through the IDALS program will receive the $5 discount on the September crop insurance invoice.

Program rules are listed at cleanwateriowa.org/covercropdemo, along with answers to frequently asked questions.

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