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ICA: Farmers must terminate cover crops by May 10

AMES, IOWA – Many Iowa farmers planted cover crops in 2012 as a means to create more livestock feeding and forage options for this past winter. However, this spring they will need to terminate those cover crops by May 10 in order to remain eligible for crop insurance, cautions the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association.

“The use of cover crops has increased by 20 times over the past three years,” says Justine Stevenson, ICA’s director of government relations and public policy. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service says about 100,000 acres of cover crops were planted in Iowa in 2012, compared to 5,000 Iowa acres in 2009.

“While NRCS is recommending that farmers terminate cover crops two weeks before planting, that just doesn’t provide enough certainty and direction,” Stevenson says. “Iowa is in the St. Paul, Minn. district of the USDA’s Risk Management Agency. That means if the cover crop hasn’t been terminated by May 10, farmers will not be eligible to use the government’s crop insurance program on those acres planted to corn, soybeans or other crops this spring and summer.”

“With warmer soil temperatures pushing plant growth on those cover crops, it’s also important that they not bud or go to seed before May 10, either, as this may also disqualify the acres for insurance coverage,” Stevenson says. “We’re encouraging cattle producers to either harvest or graze those acres, and then terminate the growth at least two weeks before May 10 so they can get the agronomic benefits as well as the forage benefit from the crop.”

USDA says that in order to insure a spring crop in Iowa, a farmer must not hay, graze or harvest the cover crop after May 10, and the cover crop must be killed before planting the spring crop. Grazing is not considered a form of “terminating the cover crop;” instead the cover crop either needs to be killed either with tillage or with an herbicide that is compatible with the crop to be planted.

ICA encourages cattle producers to talk with their local NRCS office or with their crop insurance agent for detailed information.