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Cover Crops Create Resilient Farms and Landscapes

 

AFT has worked nearly three years with Illinois Department of Agriculture agency staff and roughly 20 individuals from agricultural, environmental, and conservation organizations to develop a crop insurance premium discount program for cover crops in Illinois and get funding included in the 2020 budget. It paid off! For a second year, the Illinois Legislature approved a new line item in the Illinois Department of Agriculture, or IDOA, budget for $300,000 to fund a crop insurance premium discount program for cover crops. Same as last year, IDOA is supporting 50,000 acres of cover crops with this year’s funding.

Dave in his field

Illinois is the second state, in addition to Iowa’s current cover crop incentive program, in the nation to offer its farmers a crop insurance discount for cover crops. IDOA, is offering farmers who plant cover crops a $5/acre discount on their crop insurance bill. Acres of cover crops installed outside of state and federal program incentives (e.g., EQIP, CSP and state cost share) are eligible for IDOA’s Cover Crop Premium Discount Program.

The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, IL NLRS, recognizes cover crops as one of the most effective in-field management strategies to stem the loss of both nitrate-nitrogen and total phosphorus from corn-soybean fields, yet less than 4% of Illinois’ cropland is planted to cover crops annually. When cover crops are integrated into a farming operation, they improve soil’s overall function and health, enhancing the resiliency of Illinois cropland and resulting in less yield variation from year to year, which may translate to fewer insurance claims over time.

One individual who had immense interest and applied for the premium discount program is Dave Schluckebier. Dave farms in Montgomery and Bond Counties in Illinois, and he is also an active member on the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District Board. Dave has been using cover crops off and on for about four years. He first got started with cereal rye cover crops through an EQIP program through the NRCS—and it’s been very successful alongside his soybean crops. He was looking to find a way to enroll more acres of cover crops, and IDOA’s program allowed him to enroll about 645 acres total.

Dave was influenced by the program to plant more covers than what he originally was going to this year. The program’s incentive, $5 per acre, was enough to persuade him to continue increasing covers on his farm. It is exciting to note that out of the 50,000 acres enrolled in this year’s program, over 70% of the acres are first-time cover crop acres.

Cover crop varieties in jars

Dave might not be one of those first-time users, but he probably will be that neighbor and/or friend who influences others to try cover crops for the first time. He has been telling his friends about the program and how it is a great way to get into cover crops for the first time. Cover crops require additional planning in order to get them established during the harvest season.  David thought that the application process for this program was simple, and he said most of his questions throughout the application process were answered at his local Soil and Water Conservation District office.

Cover crops are one of the components for creating resilient farms and landscapes. Cover crops can improve the resiliency of Illinois farm operations by improving the soil’s ability to absorb and hold water for crops. In other words, when managed well, cover crops can reduce the risk of yield being impacted by bad weather. American Farmland Trust remains committed to meeting the goals of the IL NLRS and continuing to support farmers in opportunities to try a practice that is proven to improve the health of the soil.

Interested in hearing directly from Dave?

Fall Covers Spring Savings Programmatic Interview: Dave Schluckebier

Dave farms in Montgomery and Bond Counties in Illinois, and he is also an active member on the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District Board. Dave has been using cover crops off and on for about four years. He first got started with cereal rye cover crops through an EQIP program through the NRCS—and it’s been very successful alongside his soybean crops. He was looking to find a way to enroll more acres of cover crops, and IDOA’s “Cover Crops Premium Discount Program” allowed him to enroll about 645 acres total.

BEGINNING 12/15/2020...

Interested participants may sign up acres planted to cover crops in the fall of 2020 and will be planted to an insurable crop the following spring. Prior to applying, farmers need to certify their fall-planted cover crop acres with the FSA office and use the FSA 578 form to apply for the program through the IDOA website.

Apply for the program through the IDOA website here!
About the Author
April Ann Opatik Murray

Midwest Communications Coordinator

aopatik@farmland.org

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