The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has a new program aimed at increasing the acreage of cover crops in the state. Iowa farmers who plant cover crops in fall 2017 may be eligible for a $5-per-acre premium reduction on their crop insurance in 2018.
The premium reduction is on the cash crop, such as corn or soybeans, planted in spring after the cover crop. IDALS worked with USDA’s Risk Management Agency, which oversees the federal crop insurance program, to establish this three-year pilot program.
Beginning Nov. 16, IDALS opened the online sign-up and application process for farmers and landowners to certify eligible land for the program at cleanwateriowa.org/covercropdemo. If you have questions, call 515-281-5851.
Teaming crop insurance with cover crops
“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 coupled 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. Cover crop seeding dates have recently been extended, so there is still an opportunity to seed more acres this fall.”
Crop insurance is an integral part of the farm financial safety net to help farmers manage risks associated with growing a crop and provides protection for farmers impacted by severe weather and challenging growing seasons. Cover crops help prevent erosion and improve water quality and soil health, among other benefits.
“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,” notes Heather Manzano, RMA acting administrator.
Program closes Jan. 15
Applications will be taken until 5 p.m. Jan. 15. Cover crop acres currently enrolled in state or federal cost-share programs are not eligible for this program.
Cover crop seeding dates have recently been extended. Farmers are encouraged to continue seeding winter-hardy cover crops as harvest wraps up to provide protection from the elements this coming spring.
The new premium reduction will be available for fall-planted covers with a spring-planted cash crop. Some policies may be excluded, such as Whole-Farm Revenue Protection or those covered through written agreements. Participating farmers must follow all existing good farming practices required by their policy and work with their insurance agent to maintain eligibility.
Limited by funding available
This program is limited by the amount of funding. If demand exceeds available funds, IDALS will base funding on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“There are several advantages to this program, and 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. The 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 cover crops planted in the fall of 2017, so applicants should keep records of cover crops such as seed bills, etc.,” says Gleason. “IDALS will also 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, are not eligible for this new program.”
Check with crop insurance agent
Double-check with your crop insurance agent to be sure the company is participating in the program and make sure to purchase the correct crop insurance product next spring to receive the discount. Acres certified through the IDALS program will receive a $5 discount on the September crop insurance invoice. Program rules are listed at cleanwateriowa.org/covercropdemo, along with answers to frequently asked questions.