Wallaces Farmer

Guide on cover crop cost-share programs in Iowa offered

Help is available to assist farmers and landowners with the cost of planting cover crops.

July 7, 2020

6 Min Read
Soybean field with cover crops.
GET IT COVERED: Planting cover crops is a beneficial way to help protect land from erosion and build soil health. Farm Progress

As Iowa farmers and landowners look for ways to continue building soil health and protecting the state’s watersheds, many are using cover crops. The new fact sheet “Guide to Cover Crop Cost-Share in Iowa” was recently released by the Center for Rural Affairs. It outlines the state, federal and industry-based cost-share programs available to assist farmers and landowners. 

“We know implementing cover crops can be a significant cost in your farming operation, especially with low commodity prices — the current situation,” says Kayla Bergman, policy associate for the Center for Rural Affairs, based at Nevada in central Iowa. “That’s why cost-share programs which help offset these costs are crucial.” 

Offered by agencies such as the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the programs provide technical and financial assistance to help farmers and landowners put cover crops to work on their farms. Grain companies with supply chains are also funding industry-based cost-share initiatives in Iowa. 

Additionally, a program through the Iowa Department of Agriculture and USDA’s Risk Management Agency offers a discount on crop insurance premiums to producers who plant cover crops but aren’t enrolled in a government-funded cost-share program on those acres. 

Requirements, payment rates 

The fact sheet Guide to Cover Crop Cost-Share in Iowa outlines the requirements for each program in Iowa, as well as cost-share payment rates for 2020, and which programs you can overlap for your cover crop acres, Bergman says. 

Cover crops are important for building soil health and protecting Iowa’s watersheds. The average cost is $37 per acre to implement cover crops. “To assist farmers and landowners interested in growing cover crops, there are state and federal programs available that not only provide technical assistance, they also provide financial assistance for implementation,” she notes. 

The Iowa Department of Agriculture provides statewide cover crop cost share. Rate for first-time users is $25 per acre and $15 per acre for repeat users. The program is capped at 160 acres per producer. Registration for the cost-share program can be completed at your local soil and water conservation district office. Applications are typically accepted late May through late July. Acres enrolled in this state-level program are not eligible for federal-level cost-share dollars. 


NRCS offers two financial assistance programs for cover crops: The Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program.  

EQIP offers a basic payment rate of $29.82 per acre. It pays $35.65 per acre for a multispecies cover crop, and $17.60 per acre for winterkill species such as oats. Applications for EQIP are accepted on a continuous basis at your local NRCS office. However, each location has a cutoff date for ranking applications, the first is mid-March. Under EQIP, three-year contracts for cost share are awarded for cover crops. 

The CSP offers a basic payment of $8.45 per acre, with an enhancement payment of $7.90 to $14.59 per acre. Multispecies payment is $9.88 per acre, with an enhancement payment of $10.76 to $14.59 per acre. For cover crop species that winter-kill, the payment is $4.80 per acre with an enhancement payment of $7.90 to $10.76 per acre. 

NRCS accepts applications for CSP on a continuous basis throughout the year. They announce sign-up cutoff deadlines as funds become available. For 2020, the first application cutoff date for new contracts was May 29, and March 20 for renewals. CSP awards five-year contracts that must be combined with other conservation practices, based on the resource concerns of your land and your goals. Acres enrolled in EQIP or CSP are not eligible for state-level cost-share dollars. 

Water Quality Initiative projects 

The Iowa Department of Ag and Iowa Department of Natural Resources have designated priority watersheds across the state. Within these priority watersheds are projects called Water Quality Initiative projects, which are overseen by a watershed coordinator, most often located in the soil and water conservation district office. 

These projects have designated cost-share funds for landowners and farmers in the watershed who are implementing cover crops. The cost share for designated watersheds is $25 per acre, with a 160-acre limit. Applications are typically available May though late July. Acres enrolled in this state-level program aren’t eligible for federal cost-share dollars. 

Industry-based initiatives 

Practical Farmers of Iowa is working with two industry partners to implement financial assistance programs for cover crop seeding to improve sustainability. Both programs are open and accepting applications on a rolling basis for cover crops planted this fall.  

The first of the industry partner companies is Archer Daniels Midland (ADM)/Unilever in Des Moines, Iowa. Farmers who sell soybeans to the ADM Des Moines supply chain qualify for the Sustainable Soy Program. The incentive for first-time cover crop implementation is $40 per acre, for up to 40 acres. For farmers who have already implemented cover crops, the payment is $10 per acre, with an acreage cap of 160 acres or 10% of total acres farmed, whichever is larger.   

The other program — the Low Carbon Corn Program — is sponsored by PepsiCo/Cargill. Producers who sell corn directly to Cargill at Eddyville are eligible for this program. The incentive for first-time cover crop planting is $40 per acre for up to 40 acres. For growers who have implemented cover crops before, the payment is $10 per acre, and there is an acreage cap of 160 acres or 10% of total acres farmed, whichever is larger. 

If you are interested in either of these programs, you can apply at Practical Farmers of Iowa. By participating in this program, you are still eligible to receive state or federal cost share in addition.  

Seed corn cover crops initiative 

The Iowa Seed Corn Cover Crops Initiative is a project developed by the Iowa Seed Association in conjunction with the Agribusiness Association of Iowa, Iowa Farm Bureau and Iowa Corn Growers Association.  

Producers growing seed corn for the following companies are eligible: AgReliant Genetics LLC, Beck’s Hybrids, Cornelius Seed Corn Co., Dupont Pioneer, Grow Alliance, Monsanto, Mycogen Seeds, Remington Seeds and Syngenta.

The incentive payment rates are $15 per acre for winter-hardy cover crops, $10 per acre for nonwinter-hardy crops, with an additional $5 per acre for first-time cover crop users. There is no acreage cap for this program. However, acres enrolled in this state-level program aren’t eligible for federal cost-share dollars. Applications are accepted on a continual basis at sustainableseedcorn.org

Crop insurance discount 

Farmers and landowners who plant cover crops and are not enrolled in a state or federal cost-share program are eligible for a $5 discount on their spring crop insurance premiums for the following spring. This program is administered jointly by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and USDA’s Risk Management Agency. The application period is typically from October through January at apply.cleanwateriowa.org

Source: Center for Rural Affairs, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. 




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