New Iowa crop insurance discount for cover crops

$5-per-acre premium break expected to be part of three-year demonstration project

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Iowa farmers who plant cover crops this fall may be eligible for a $5-per-acre break on crop insurance for acres planted in cover crops through a program aimed at improving Iowa’s water quality.

The new demonstration project, a partnership between the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the USDA’s Risk Management Agency, is open to farmers who aren’t already receiving state or federal cost-share grants to grow cover crops, said Dustin Vande Hoef, spokesman for the Iowa agency.

“Iowa offers $25 (per acre) for first-time growers and $15 if you’ve used it before,” Vande Hoef said of cost-share grants. “This is an even smaller incentive after that, to encourage long-term use.”

Iowa is the first state to offer this kind of program, Vande Hoef said.

The money will come from Iowa’s Water Quality Initiative, established in 2013 to help implement the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, a road map for reducing by 45 percent the nitrogen and phosphorus leaving Iowa via the Mississippi River and contributing to an oxygen-free dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

The strategy says 60 percent of Iowa’s corn and soybean acres should be planted in cover crops, along with other conservation strategies, to meet the state’s goal. But only about 2.6 percent of Iowa’s total corn and soybean acres had cover crops in 2015-16, according to a study by Practical Farmers and the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group.

A Sunday Gazette investigation showed cover crop adoption is highest in southeast Iowa, with relatively low use of cover crops in the north-central part of the state.

The $5-per-acre crop insurance discount was announced Thursday, too late for some Iowa farmers to apply this year.

The deadline for getting state and federal money for seeding winter hardy cereal rye in the northern third of the state already has passed. Central Iowa has until Saturday to be eligible for state cost-share and federal financial aid for cover crops and southern Iowa has until Dec. 3.

“We recognize it’s late for this year,” Vande Hoef said. “But hopefully some farmers can take advantage.”

The program is expected to be a three-year demonstration project that may be expanded to other states, he said.

Online applications will be accepted through Jan. 15 at cleanwateriowa.org/covercropdemo.

Some crop insurance policies may be excluded, such as Whole-Farm Revenue Protection or those covered through written agreements, the Iowa Agriculture Department reported.

People with questions about eligibility should contact Matt Lechtenberg at (515) 281-3857 or matthew.lechtenberg@iowaagriculture.gov.

l Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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