USDA is actively seeking ways to help farmers affected by this year’s high water and flooding, which may result in record prevented planting. The Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Risk Management Agency (RMA) are offering options to those who were unable to plant their intended crop.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) has announced that eight states will be eligible for special program signups targeting producers who were not able to get their crops planted this season.
In June, RMA announced that it has adjusted the haying and grazing date to allow farmers who planted cover crops on prevented plant acres to cut those fields for silage, haylage, or baleage earlier in 2019 moving the date from November 1 to September 1.
Keith Gray, RMA Chief of Staff said it was “obviously to give them more flexibility where they can get in sooner, to get them access to forage for haying and grazing.”
He noted that at this point the date change was only for 2019, but RMA intends to engage with stakeholders and the other two agencies to see whether it makes sense to have a permanent change in the date moving forward.
Understanding that cover crops can boost soils potential, Matthew Lohr, NRCS Chief notes, “We have a strong emphasis at NRCS for improving soil health.”
Lohr has stated that land left fallow without a planned cover crop can suffer from loss of soil structure and organisms. Cover crops can help reestablish the soil health and create pathways for air and water to move through the soil.
“Of course, farmers often plant cover crops during the off season after harvesting a cash crop,” says Lohr. “But they can also be planted on fields where farmers were prevented from planting a cash crop like we're seeing across many parts of the country this year.”
To incentivize the planting of cover crops in areas affected by this year’s flooding, the plan is to provide share dollars for cover crops in
Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
“There may be more coming in,” says Lohr of the share dollars. “Certainly, while farmers can apply for cost sharing assistance for cover crops anytime, these special signups are really geared for the impacted farmers.”
Most of the signup deadlines are mid to late July, so growers who are interested need to speak with their local EQIP offices soon. Lohr also notes that producers can hay, graze or chop a cover crop planted with NRCS assistance, then they can still be eligible for a prevented planning payment.
Steve Peterson, FSA Associate Administrator, says the Market Access Program (MAP) payment made last season was based on planted acres, but this year the Secretary of Agriculture has made it very clear that the payment will not be on individually planted acres.
“They have to be planted but they don’t have to be to the specific commodity,” Peterson said. “Because of the fact we have prevented planting so wide spread, ultimately a cover crop can be used in leu of a planted crop to maintain eligibility for the Market Access Program in 2019 for minimal payment.”
Over $1 Billion
According to Bill Northey, Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation, the US has seen over a hundred million dollars of prevented planting claims come into RMA. He ultimately expects to see claims go over $1 billion.
“Crop insurance is a main tool for producers when we have these unpredictable and challenging years,” he says.
He suggests going into your local NRCS office to have a conversation about a cover crop on land you're able to get onto with a planter in one of the distressed areas.
“This is not typically a time when we're looking at cover crops,” he says. Noting that they are usually planted after an annual crop or wheat and so the option of being able to get help outside of the normal offering is due to the challenges that producers are facing.
He also noted that up until the last few weeks the prevented planting has been worse than anything he had seen in the last 10 years, but was not willing to quantify the number until the final report is issued in mid-July.