Iowa Groups Want USDA To Allow Earlier Grazing Of Cover Crops

Iowa Groups Want USDA To Allow Earlier Grazing Of Cover Crops

Iowa farm organizations are asking U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack to waive date that impacts grazing of cover crops.

Several Iowa farm organizations, along with farm lenders and wildlife organizations, are asking USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to take immediate action to waive the November 1 date linked to grazing and haying of cover crops on prevented planting acres. Currently, if a cover crop on those acres is harvested or grazed before November 1, the farmers' prevented planting payment will be reduced to 35% of the production guarantee.

That rule restricting grazing or harvesting of a cover crop until after November 1 is a rule put forth by USDA's Risk Management Agency. RMA oversees federal crop insurance, which is made available by commercial insurance companies.

ASKING FOR A WAIVER: Acres covered by federal crop insurance can be planted to cover crops but farmers have to wait until after November 1 to graze or harvest the cover crop. That's risky because of weather concerns and loss of nutrition in the forage. "If USDA will waive the November 1 date and allow earlier grazing, that would give farmers an incentive to plant cover crops on the prevented planting acres," says ICA president Ed Greiman.

Iowa cattle producers need the forage, and "prevented planting" acres need a cover crop planted on them

"A historic drought for Iowa during the summer of 2012 and now the wettest spring on record, which we have experienced this year are driving this request," says Ed Greiman. A farmer from Garner in northern Iowa, he is president of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association. "As cattlemen and other livestock producers work through already tight feed and forage supplies, both feedlot and cow-calf producers will have to manage limited forage stocks and potentially prepare for herd liquidation due to concerns regarding forage availability.

"If the USDA Secretary will waive that November 1 date, Iowa livestock producers will have assurance that they will have access to forage in a timely manner, and it will give them incentive for managing the protection of cropped acres through the use of cover crops," Greiman says.

Lifting the November 1 date that restricts grazing would have multiple benefits

Current acres enrolled in the federal crop insurance program can be planted to cover crops, but waiting until after November 1 to harvest those acres is very risky because of weather concerns, and the loss of the prime nutrition available from the cover crop, notes Greiman.

"Your immediate action to lift the November 1 date linked to Risk Management Agency and Farm Service Agency policies would serve as an incentive for all Iowa farmers to plant cover crops on prevented planting acres," the letter to Vilsack said. "That would lead to multiple benefits including soil and water conservation, capturing preplant nutrient loads and providing much needed forage for livestock farmers. Your attention to this matter is urgent so farmers can be informed of this option, and be prepared to plant forages soon after the June 25 late planting date for corn deadline," the letter concluded.

Other groups joining ICA in signing the letter are Farm Credit Services of America; Iowa Bankers Association; Iowa Corn Growers Association; Iowa Farm Bureau Federation; Iowa Pork Producers Association; Iowa Soybean Association; Iowa State Dairy Association; and the National Wildlife Federation.

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