Cover crop acres can mean lower crop insurance

     Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig announced on Oct. 22 that farmers who are using cover crops and not receiving state or federal cost share can sign up for a $5 per acre premium reduction on their crop insurance. A new online application process is available to make it easier for farmers to sign up for the program.

     “As we have seen cover crop acres increase significantly in recent years, we are also getting more data on the long-term value of cover crops to farmers. This incentive program is a tool to help farmers scale up acres of cover crops and get even more comfortable with how this practice fits on their farm,” Naig said.

     Farmers can sign up for the program now at Farmers who participate will receive the reduction on their crop insurance in 2019. Farmers are encouraged to sign up after their cover crop seeding has been completed.

     Applications will be taken until Jan. 15, 2019. Cover crop acres currently enrolled in state and/or federal programs are not eligible for this program. The premium reduction will be available for fall-planted cover crops with a spring-planted cash crop.

     Iowa cover crop acres have grown to an estimated 760,000 acres planted in 2017, a 22 percent increase from 2016. More than 700 farmers participated in the crop insurance incentive program in 2017, using cover crops on nearly 170,000 acres.

     “The extremely wet weather this fall has made it a challenge to get crops harvested and cover crops seeded. The deadline to seed cover crops and still participate in state and federal cost share programs has recently been extended, so there is still time for farmers to get cover crops planted and participate in this program,” Naig said.

     As cover crop acreage has increased, additional research has examined the economic costs and benefits of cover crops for farmers. Iowa State University’s Ag Decision Maker website has a new decision-making tool that can help crop and livestock farmers assess the value of cover crops on their farm. The free tool, “Economics of Cover Crops,” consists of three in-depth budgeting worksheets designed to help farmers analyze the costs and benefits of cover crops and paths to profitability in their row crop operations with or without the integration of livestock.

     The online worksheets were created with funding by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Water Quality Initiative and can be found at


Background on Iowa Water Quality Initiative

     The Iowa Water Quality Initiative was established in 2013 to help implement the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which is a science and technology based approach to achieving a 45 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus losses to our waters.  The strategy brings together both point sources, such as municipal wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities, and nonpoint sources, including farm fields and urban stormwater runoff to address these issues.

     The Initiative seeks to harness the collective ability of both private and public resources and organizations to deliver a clear and consistent message to stakeholders to reduce nutrient loss and improve water quality.

     The initiative is seeing results. This fall, 2,800 farmers invested an estimated $9 million in funding to match $5 million in state cost share funds to adopt cover crops, no-till or strip till, or use a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Participants include more than 1,000 farmers using a practice for the first time and nearly 1,800 past users who are trying cover crops again and are receiving a reduced rate of cost share.

     A total of 64 demonstration projects are currently located across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices. This includes 14 targeted watershed projects, seven projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices and 43 urban water quality demonstration projects. More than 250 organizations are participating in these projects. These partners will provide $42.2 million to go with the $31.5 million in state funding going to these projects.

     More than $420 million in funding has been documented for efforts in support of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy last year. This represents a $32 million increase of funding in support of Iowa water quality programs and conservation efforts over the previous year.

     More information about the initiative can be found at



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