AFT Applauds USDA’s Risk Management Agency for Recognizing NRCS Conservation Practices as “Good Farming Practices”
American Farmland Trust (AFT) applauds the announcement by USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) that it will now recognize all NRCS-approved conservation practices as “Good Farming Practices” in the Federal Crop Insurance Program.
The crop insurance system is an essential safety net for many farmers across the nation, covering more than 85 percent of corn, soy, cotton, and wheat acres. With so many farmers depending upon this program to manage risk, it is imperative that it work in concert with farmer conservation goals. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case.
One of the key barriers to conservation practice adoption, such as cover crops, has been the mismatch between what the crop insurance programs considers “good farming practices,” which guides program eligibility, and USDA NRCS’s conservation practices. AFT has heard firsthand accounts from farmers on how implementing conservation practices – even with NRCS programs and technical assistance – has caused them to lose insurance coverage. As a result, there are farmers who have been hesitant to engage in the very practices needed to protect their soil, or reticent to report the beneficial practices already in their fields.
The announcement of this new alignment between the Federal Crop Insurance Program and NRCS conservation practices means that RMA has removed another barrier to conservation adoption. Not only do conservation practices help to reduce the risk of yield loss, which supports the purpose of the crop insurance program, they can also help boost yields, lower the cost of inputs, and increase overall resilience to a changing climate.
This is a change that many stakeholders have called for, including AFT in a recent white paper which urged RMA to make changes to better harmonize crop insurance with conservation practice adoption. This critical change will not only enable more farmers to adopt conservation practices without fear of losing their insurance benefits, it also sends an important message to farmers that the crop insurance program and conservation practices are intended to work together.