Iowa farmers who plant cover crops this fall may be eligible for a $5-per-acre discount on their spring 2021 crop insurance premiums for cash crops. To qualify, the cover crop acres can’t be enrolled in other state or federal cover crop cost-share programs.
Interest in this program, now starting its fourth year, continues to grow as farmers plant more cover crops to reduce erosion, build soil health and improve water quality. The insurance discount is administered by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and USDA’s Risk Management Agency.
“The 2020 growing season posed significant weather challenges, and farmers can seed cover crops to mitigate some of the damage to their fields,” says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “In addition to providing livestock grazing and weed management benefits, cover crops reduce soil erosion and improve soil health to help prepare fields for planting corn and soybeans.”
Program gains momentum
Cover crops such as rye and oats lock in nutrients, especially during extreme weather events, Naig says. Helping to improve water quality, cover crops are proven to reduce nitrogen loads by 28% to 31%, and phosphorus loads by 29%.
Through this program, the first of its kind in the country, farmers who plant cover crops in the fall can apply for the $5-per-acre reduction on their crop insurance premium for spring-planted crops, such as corn and soybeans. Some 1,700 Iowa farmers have accessed the crop insurance discount on about 500,000 acres during the first three years of the program. New farmers and fields join each year.
You can sign up for the cover crop insurance premium reduction program at apply.cleanwateriowa.org. Sign-up began Nov. 1 and applications will be accepted through Jan. 15. IDALS will take applications online, verify cover crop acres and provide a list of eligible applicants to RMA for the premium reduction.
Some insurance policies may be excluded, such as whole-farm Revenue Protection, or those containing written agreements that prohibit such participation. Participants must follow all existing farming practices required by their policy and need to work with the insurance company to maintain eligibility.
Other states intrigued
Iowa’s crop insurance discount program has drawn interest from other states that are working to build cover crop acreage to protect soil and water. Illinois started a cover crop discount program last year modeled after Iowa’s. “They are using our program as a model and we are happy to share our ideas,” Naig says.
The discount program continues to gain momentum in Iowa because it fits well in a state where 95% of farmers purchase crop insurance. IDALS has streamlined the sign-up process, and the discount is automatically deducted from crop insurance premiums on spring-planted crops such as corn and soybeans.
Also, farmers like the discount program because, unlike the state’s cost-share programs for cover crops, there is no cap on the number of acres signed up. That appeals to farmers interested in planting cover crops on more acres.
Naig encourages farmers to visit their local USDA service center to learn more about this program and other cost-share funding available to support the implementation of cover crops and other conservation practices.