Nine out of 10 farmers say they definitely or probably will stick with cover crops after the expiration of financial incentives to add the crops to their operations, said a report based on a survey of 795 farmers nationwide. Half of the participants in the National Cover Crop Survey said they had received some sort of payment for cover crops in 2022.
For the first time in polling by Purdue University, a plurality of farmers say Congress is unlikely to pass a farm bill in 2023. Lawmakers are all but certain to fail to enact a successor to the 2018 farm bill before it expires on Sept. 30 and plan to be in session for as few as nine of the remaining 22 weeks of this year.
This spring, the Biden administration began allocating $3.1 billion to hundreds of agriculture organizations, corporations, universities, and nonprofits for climate-smart projects. As Gabriel Popkin writes in FERN’s latest story, published with Yale Environment 360, “The USDA estimates that the 141 funded projects will, collectively over the project’s five-year lifetime, eliminate or sequester the equivalent of 60 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, on par with removing more than 2.4 million gas-powered cars from the road over the same period.”
The financial and risk-reducing benefits of conservation practices such as cover crops and conservation tillage are increasingly evident, said the AGree Initiative on farm policy in a report on Tuesday. "Further, ecosystem services markets may provide farmers with new economic opportunities to diversify their income," said the report, aimed in part at farm lenders.
If Congress follows the farm bill recommendations of the Conservation Coalition, it would revive a $5-an-acre discount on crop insurance premiums for farmers who plant cover crops. The coalition, an alliance of farm, land stewardship, and environmental groups, also said on Wednesday that the 2023 farm bill should raise the enrollment cap for the land-idling Conservation Reserve.
Cover crops have gained elite status as a way for farmers to fight climate change. But a closer look at the growing body of research raises questions about their ability to lower agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Cover crops are more popular than previously known, according to a USDA survey. Growers reported using cover crops on 40 percent of their cropland in 2021, suggesting a sizable increase from the 15.4 million acres of cover crops listed in the 2017 Census of Agriculture.
Rain, snow and sleet increased in almost all midwestern counties between 2001 and 2020. Along with that additional precipitation came increased federal crop insurance payments to farmers whose crops failed due to “excess moisture,” said a report Wednesday by the Environmental Working Group.
America's biggest farmers are unchanging skeptics of climate change but they slowly are adopting cover crops, mostly to improve crop yields and soil health, said Purdue University on Tuesday. Only one in 20 growers say they planted the soil- and water-holding crops for carbon sequestration.
Anne Schwagerl would love to purchase an interseeder, a machine that plants cover crop seeds directly into a field where another crop like soybeans is already growing. But she and her husband, who grow a variety of grains on 400 acres in western Minnesota, can't afford the $80,000 price tag. So she was happy when the state legislature recently approved a cost-share program to help farmers to purchase such equipment.
Farm-state lawmakers would have the funds to write a climate-focused farm bill if Congress enacts a broad-ranging package that President Biden on Thursday called “the most significant legislation in history to tackle the climate crisis.” The package includes $20 billion for voluntary conservation practices on the farm to sequester greenhouse gases in soils, plants, and trees.
Cover crops can help farmers build healthier soil, but they may not work well on fields where farmers have continuously grown corn for decades and applied large amounts of nitrogen fertilizers, according to two new studies. “In the Midwest, our soils are healthy and resilient, but we shouldn’t overestimate them. A soil under unsustainable practices for too long might reach an irreversible threshold,” said Nakian Kim, a doctoral graduate student in the University of Illinois’s Department of Crop Sciences who led the studies.
In the debate over how to use agricultural lands to sequester carbon and help mitigate climate change, no-till and cover cropping get most of the attention. But studies are starting to show that grazed perennial pastures, where the soil is rarely disturbed and continuously covered, may be the best strategy for locking carbon in the soil long-term, according to experts on a recent Environmental Working Group webinar.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced $2.6 million in grants on Wednesday to help farmers plant cover crops across 500,000 acres in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, and Minnesota.
In a new report, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation calls on farms in the bay’s watershed to “urgently accelerate and scale up” their conservation efforts, not only to reduce water-borne pollution — a federal mandate — but to slash their greenhouse gas emissions and stoke local economies.
For the second year in a row, farmers who plant cover crops are eligible for a premium benefit of $5 an acre on most crop insurance policies, said the USDA’s Risk Management Agency on Thursday.
Only 5 percent of U.S. cropland is planted to cover crops amid debate over their financial benefits to farmers. Congress may need to offer a "sizable" subsidy to growers if it wants large-scale adoption of the farming practice, said two university economists.
Over a 10-year period, conservation tillage became the most popular tillage practice on U.S. cropland, said a USDA agency on Thursday. The Natural Resources Conservation Service said the practice, which leaves crop residue on at least 30 percent of the soil surface to reduce erosion, had been adopted on 53.4 million acres by the mid-2010s.
Four months after it announced a temporary rule change, the USDA said on Wednesday that it would alter crop insurance rules permanently so farmers can hay, graze, or chop cover crops at any time and still be eligible for a full prevented planting payment.