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Iowa program boosts cover crops

Jeff Caldwell 12/19/2012 @ 8:44am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

More than 100 farmers in Iowa have planted 4,660 acres of cover crops this year in part because of a state cost-share program encouraging them to do so, officials said this week.

A total of 117 farmers took advantage of an Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) program to include cover crops in a state cost-share program that allows up to $25 an acre in state funding to establish the crops, according to Iowa ag secretary Bill Northey. In all, the state invested just shy of $105,000 -- an amount matched by participating farmers -- in the effort that spanned over 24 soil conservation districts in Iowa.

"We are excited about the initial response we received to this new effort to encourage the use of cover crops and hope it is the start of many more farmers looking at and using this conservation practice," Northey says. "We have seen a lot of growing interest in cover crops, and with the drought and early harvest this year, it was a good opportunity for farmers to try them on their farm."

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) also provided assistance for cover crops and has seen tremendous growth in recent years, according to a report from IDALS communication coordinator Dustin Vande Hoef. For 2012, the program supports cover crops on 51,635 acres in Iowa, up from 4,059 acres in 2009.

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