Get Rewarded for Covering your Soil

It’s that time of year again, fall harvest time. Mornings, afternoons, and evenings spent in the cab of the combine hoping to end the season with great yields.

This is also the time to keep your soil shielded and the microbes fed during the winter months by following the harvest with a fall cover crop. Especially because the Illinois Department of Agriculture is continuing the Fall Covers for Spring Savings Program which offers farmers that plant cover crops a $5 per acre discount on their crop insurance bill.

The Fall Covers Program is offered for acres of cover crops installed outside of the state and federal program incentives (EQIP, CSP, and state cost share), and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis on 50,000 acres across Illinois. Interested participants may sign up acres planted to cover crops in the fall of 2020 that will be planted to an insurable crop the following spring. Eligible applicants will receive a $5/acre insurance premium discount on 2021’s crop insurance invoice for every acre of cover crop enrolled and accepted in the program.

Cover Crops: a Farmer’s Safety Net

Crop insurance is an integral part of the farm safety net, providing protection for farmers when adverse weather impacts crop yields.Cover crops can improve the resiliency of Illinois farm operations by preventing erosion and improving the soil’s ability to absorb and hold water for crops. Because more resilient soil results in less yield variation from year to year, another benefit may be fewer insurance claims over time.

Introducing cover crops to your rotation takes purposeful management. Many producers interested in integrating with cover crops start with cereal rye after corn harvest, before soybean planting. The Midwest Cover Crop Council is a great resource on cover crop species selection, seeding rates, planting dates and termination methods, all vetted by experts. 

Who Benefits?

In addition to the on-farm benefits of improved soil function and health, cover crops also enhance environmental quality, providing multiple benefits to Illinois communities. The below graphic summarizes an average of nutrient, sediment and GHG reductions provided by the implementation of 50,000 acres in the 2019 Illinois Fall Covers for Spring Savings Cover Crop Premium Discount Program.

How to Apply: 

Farmers will need to certify their fall-planted cover crop acres with the FSA office and use the FSA 578 form to apply for the program through the Illinois Department of Agriculture website. Farmers submit cover crop reward applications to IDOA beginning December 15, until January 15, 2021

Questions?

Find your local SWCD office or contact the Illinois Department of Agriculture. 

How will IDOA Verify Eligible Acres?

IDOA will use a combination of tools to verify acres in cover crops applied for through this program. Applications will be reviewed for overlap in enrollment of other federal and state programs. IDOA will then employ a variety of tools at their discretion. Applicants must maintain documentation on cover crops that have been seeded (e.g., seed bills) and utilize Midwest Cover Crop Council – Cover Crop Tool recommendations for seeding rates/dates.

Thanks to Supporting Partners for keeping this important program going!

American Farmland Trust has led this coalition of organizations to bring this “Fall Cover for Spring Savings” program to Illinois.