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USDA allows more leeway on cover crops

Four months after it announced a temporary rule change, the USDA said on Wednesday that it would alter crop insurance rules permanently so farmers can hay, graze, or chop cover crops at any time and still be eligible for a full prevented planting payment.

Until now, the payments were reduced by 65% if growers touched them before Nov. 1.

“This change builds on the advanced research and identified benefits cover crops have supporting healthy soils and cropland sustainability efforts,” said the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). “Cover crops are especially important on fields prevented from being planted because they cover ground that would otherwise be left bare, which helps reduce soil erosion, boost soil health, and increase soil carbon sequestration.”

Cover crops are planted on only 5% of U.S. cropland, although they are becoming more widely employed.

To encourage adoption of cover crops, the RMA offered a premium benefit this spring of up to $5 an acre for farmers who planted a cover crop this year.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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