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Serving: IN

Emergency Programs for Livestock, Cover Crops Bring New Users

Emergency Programs for Livestock, Cover Crops Bring New Users
Farmers and landowners who usually don't utilize conservation programs have signed up.

Lisa Holscher heads up the West Central Indiana Watershed Alliance. Recently she observed that farmers and landowners who were taking advantage of the emergency relief programs offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service aren't the ones who usually participate in conservation programs.

What makes this interesting is that Jane Hardisty, a farmer-turned-Indiana state conservationist for NRCS, pushed for extra funding from the federal level for special programs. When USDA finally announced that it would not only allow and fund many of the practices she sought, but also do it on a nationwide basis, Indiana received about 20% of all the dollars allocated for the funding.

SOW RYE: Mike Shuter, Frankton, applies rye with his high-clearance sprayer to get a jump on seeding cover crops this fall.

One of the special allowances was in the Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program, or WHIP. Among other things, it allowed landowners and farmers to pasture livestock on acres in programs where grazing or haying is not usually allowed. But, those emergency exemptions carried very specific dates for when such activities could occur. Be sure you don't assume it's OK to do something on those acres until you visit your NRCS and Farm Service Agency offices and obtain official permission to do so.

The WHIP allowances dovetail with the Indiana State Department of Agriculture's cover crop cost-share program. The assistance was offered in 15 hard-hit west central and southwestern Indiana counties, and "sold out" in 24 hours. That happens for rock band concerts – not usually in agriculture, and definitely not for cover crops. It appears that an old-time practice is being reborn for new uses. Many people using cover crops are doing it as part of a system that includes no-till or minimum till to improve soil health. Some are trying cover crops this fall to prevent nutrient loss for the nitrogen applied for corn that was never used by the crop. At last report, cereal rye was still available, but demand was starting to cause prices to increase.

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