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Iowa program encourages cover crops

Cover crops

Enrollment will begin Nov. 1 for Iowa’s program that offers a $5 per acre discount on crop insurance premiums for farmers who plant cover crops.

Interest in the program, which is starting its fourth year, continues to grow as farmers plant more cover crops to reduce erosion, build soil quality and im­­prove water, said Mike Naig, Iowa secretary of agricult­ure. “There has been growing interest every year, and it’s certainly something we plan to keep around,” he said.

Gaining momentum

Some 1,700 Iowa farmers have accessed the crop insurance dis­count on about 500,000 acres during the three years of the program, Naig said.

Through the Iowa 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 on their spring-planted crops. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) developed the program working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA), which oversees the federal crop insurance program.

Drawing attention

Iowa’s crop insurance discount program has drawn interest from other states also working to build cover crop acreage to protect soil and water, Naig said. Illinois, he said, started a cover crop discount program last year modeled after Iowa’s.

“They are using our program as model, and we are happy to share our ideas,” he said.

Iowa’s cover crop/crop insurance discount program is also gaining momentum because it fits in a state where 95% of farmers purchase crop insurance, Naig said. IDALS has streamlined the sign-up process, and the discount is automatically deducted from crop insurance premiums on spring-planted crops, Naig said.

In addition, 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, Naig said. “That appeals to farmers who are interested in planting cover crops on more acres,” he said. 

To learn more about the program and apply, go to: apply.cleanwateriowa.org. Enrollment in the program will close in mid-January.



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