Farming the Good Fight
It is now February and I am finally getting around to reflecting on all the hard work myself and my team at AFT has accomplished. Let me be brief by saying we have done A LOT! We have gained and lost a few members of our team— and we remain committed and strong towards helping our soil and our farmers here in the Midwest.
Some of us won awards for our work with conservation, a few of us hosted successful workshops for women in agriculture, and we also launched some amazing economic case study results for farmers and soil health. For myself, the proudest moment came when the Illinois Legislature approved a new line item in the Illinois Department of Agriculture budget for $300,000 to fund a crop insurance premium discount program for cover crops.
AFT worked the past two years with Illinois Department of Agriculture agency staff and nearly 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. When the funding was approved for this program—I was speechless. I knew that this program was working in states like Iowa (with a similar program), and I wanted so badly for something similar to be available for our farmers here in Illinois. This is the second state in the nation to offer its farmers a crop insurance discount for cover crops!
I have been farming on my land in Illinois for 20 years and using conservation practices such as cover crops for the past seven of those years. I know first-hand what types of benefits it has on my soil and for my crops, and I wanted others around me to have an opportunity to test it out and see what it could do for them.
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. The crop insurance premium discount program is designed to promote the planting of additional acres of cover crops that are not already covered by other state or federal incentives.
Within the first seven days of this program’s launch on Dec. 4, 2019, the 50,000 acres cap was reached. By the deadline of Jan. 15, 2020, —there were over 136,000 acres submitted. Over 200 operators will be integrating cover crops on their land because of this program—and over 70% of them are first-time cover crop users. This is so huge! Knowing that most operators who signed up are first-time cover crops users gives us encouragement for promoting further funding for next year’s Illinois Department of Agriculture fiscal budget—which I am going to continue to fight for!
I live and breathe my work—and I hope that through my work I can help educate and provide assistance to our Illinois and Midwest farmers. This past year was really successful in many ways, but there always continues to be more ways in which we can improve. Thank you to all our supporters and to our hard-working farmers and ranchers. May this year of 2020 be the best one yet!