FAQ: I plant a cover crop of winter rye in the fall on soybean stubble, after harvest of beans from my fields. These fields will be planted to corn the next spring. I have to kill the cover crop first, before planting the corn. What is the rule for termination of the cover crop, as far as crop insurance is concerned? I heard that USDA's Risk Management Agency has a new rule, giving the farmer more time in the spring to let the cover crop grow before killing it and planting an insured crop, such as corn?
Answer: Farmers have been given more time to terminate or kill their cover crops in the spring to meet a crop insurance deadline set by USDA's Risk Management Agency. The excessively wet spring of last year prevented many farmers in the eastern Corn Belt from killing their cover crop in time, so RMA has issued a new rule.
In order for grain farmers to insure their main crop (such as corn or soybeans), they previously had to terminate cover crops by May 15 and before the cover crop headed or budded. In December 2011 USDA/RMA changed those rules so farmers now must terminate cover crops by June 5 and they can kill that cover crop regardless of the growth stage.
"Last year, with a very wet spring, the May 15 deadline was really problematic," says Eileen Kladivko, a Purdue University professor of agronomy. "There was a lot of effort on the parts of land-grant universities, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and partners like the National Wildlife Federation to get that rule changed because of the conservation benefits of cover crops. The new rule gives us an extra three weeks of cover crop growth before the cover crop must be terminated, and it doesn't matter what the stage of the cover crop is when you kill it. This is a great improvement because now farmers can manage cover crops as is best to agronomically manage them."
According to RMA, the changes in this rule affect insurable crops of corn, popcorn, sweet corn, hybrid seed corn, pumpkins, soybeans, grain sorghum and processing beans. The agency defines cover crops as crops planted within 12 months of planting an insurable crop. The cover crop must be recognized as a sound agronomic conservation practice for the area.
Still a good idea to visit with your crop insurance agent
The change recognizes the importance of crop insurance in protecting a producer's livelihood and conservation in protecting the soil. However, even with the changes and increased flexibility, farmers need to visit with their crop insurance agent about the way cover crops may affect a specific crop insurance policy.
Farmers also can get more information about cover crops on RMA's website at www.rma.usda.gov by clicking the "Information Browser" link. The site provides farmers with access to specific information by allowing them to enter crops and counties where farms are located and to look at special provisions.