cover crops

With Senate pact, climate-focused farm bill becomes possible

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 struggle to overcome conventional soil management

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.

Claim: Grazed grasslands trump cover crops on long-term carbon sequestration

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.

Group funds half a million acres of cover crops in Midwest

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.

Conservation tillage is dominant U.S. practice

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.

Report: farms in Chesapeake Bay watershed must ‘urgently accelerate’ conservation efforts

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.

Cover crops get premium treatment again

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.

Hefty subsidy needed for adoption of cover crops

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.

USDA allows more leeway on cover crops

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.

Agriculture can be climate leader with ‘build back’ funding, says Vilsack

The farm sector would gain $27 billion for climate mitigation, including payments for planting cover crops, from the social welfare and climate change bill passed by the House, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Agriculture can lead the way in the fight on climate with climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices that sequester carbon, reduce emissions and create new and better market opportunities for producers."

‘Build back better’ bill would pay farmers to plant cover crops

House Democrats, acting in concert with President Biden, proposed a $1.75 trillion social welfare and climate change bill on Thursday that would combat global warming by paying farmers up to $25 an acre to grow cover crops on their land during fallow seasons. The bill also would help low-income families buy food for their children during the summer and make nearly 9 million students in high-poverty areas eligible for free school meals.

Keep climate-smart agriculture in ‘Build Back Better’ bill, say lawmakers

While Democratic leaders in Congress are trying to scale down the cost of President Biden's social welfare and climate change bill, it is important to make "bold investments ... that expand climate-smart agriculture practices," said two House Democrats. The members of the House Agriculture Committee said the money should be funneled through voluntary programs already offered by the USDA.

More farmers experiment with cover crops, a climate tool, survey shows

Slightly more than half of the country's biggest farmers say they planted cover crops this year, indicating a broadening acceptance of the crops' benefits for soil health and the accompanying complication they bring to land management, said Purdue's Ag Economy Barometer on Tuesday. Cover crops received prominent attention this year as a potential way to earn money from a carbon contract while mitigating climate change on the farm.

New $5 billion cover crop initiative in climate package

Farmers and landowners would share a combined $5 billion in payments for planting cover crops to reduce soil erosion and nutrient runoff under a proposal written by farm state Democrats in the Senate and House. The package would also boost spending on a handful of existing stewardship programs for total outlays of $28 billion.

Opinion: How farmers can be at the forefront of the climate solution

More than a half century after the first Earth Day, with our planet in worse shape than it’s ever been, the challenge of slowing global warming and the environmental, economic and social devastation underway can sometimes feel like too much — too expensive, too complicated and too politically divisive to overcome. But when we wake up every morning in rural Marion County, Iowa, we aren’t filled with despair. We’re filled with hope in a revolutionary idea: that farmers will help mitigate climate damage that farmers will help mitigate climate damage if we pay them to make their operations more resilient and sustainable. (No paywall)

Senator suggests building climate mitigation on USDA conservation programs

The government should use USDA conservation programs as the starting point for climate mitigation on the farm and "tread lightly" with unproven ideas like a carbon bank, said the senior Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday. Arkansas Sen. John Boozman cautioned that climate-smart practices may be too expensive for some producers to adopt.

Cover crops grow in popularity, but still a niche

Extolled as a defense against erosion and nutrient loss during fallow seasons, cover crops are being planted on a larger portion of U.S. cropland than before, said USDA economists. Plantings expanded 50 percent in a five-year period, but still only 5 percent of cropland is sown with them—and incentive payments are an important factor in adoption of the practice.

‘You cannot do climate on the backs of the American farmer’

Farmers expect to be paid for climate mitigation, and not at the expense of the traditional farm subsidies, said the president of the largest U.S. farm group during a discussion of President Biden's goal of an agriculture sector that achieves net-zero emission of greenhouse gases by 2050. Other ag leaders on the panel organized by USDA agreed there must be a financial payoff for the voluntary, incentive-based practices espoused by the administration to succeed.

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