By Rod Swoboda
The Iowa Department of Agriculture is reminding farmers of the Jan. 15 deadline to sign up for an innovative new program providing a $5-per-acre reduction on their crop insurance premium in 2019. This is for farmers who planted cover crops this past fall and who aren’t already receiving any state or federal cost-share assistance for establishing these covers.
“We continue to see interest in cover crops growing across the state,” says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “This program can be an important tool to help farmers as they increase cover crop acres beyond what might be eligible for other state and federal programs. We’ve created a new online application process to make it as easy as possible for farmers to sign up and participate in the program.”
Farmers and landowners can sign up online to certify eligible land for the program. Cover crop acres currently enrolled in state or federal cost-share programs for cover crops are not eligible for this program. This website link has a list of frequently asked questions and answers about the program.
Reward for planting covers
The new premium reduction is available for fall-planted cover crops with a spring-planted cash crop. Some crop insurance policies may be excluded, such as Whole-Farm Revenue Protection or those covered through written agreements. Participating farmers must follow all existing good farming practices required by their policy and work with their insurance agent to maintain eligibility.
The Iowa Department of Ag worked with the USDA Risk Management Agency, which oversees the federal crop insurance program, to establish the three-year demonstration project aimed at expanding the use of cover crops in Iowa. This is the second year of the demonstration project. More than 700 farmers participated in the inaugural year of the program, using cover crops on nearly 170,000 acres.
“As we have seen cover crop acres increase significantly in recent years, we are also getting more data on the long-term value of cover crops to farmers,” Naig says. “This crop insurance incentive program is a tool to help farmers scale up acres of cover crops and get even more comfortable with how this practice fits on their farms.”
New decision-making tool
Iowa State University’s Ag Decision Maker website has a new decision-making tool that can help crop and livestock farmers assess the value of cover crops on their farm. The free tool, “Economics of Cover Crops,” consists of three in-depth budgeting worksheets designed to help farmers analyze the costs and benefits of cover crops and paths to profitability in their row crop operations with or without the use of livestock.
The online worksheets were created by the Iowa Department of Ag’s Water Quality Initiative.