Cover Crops and Crop Insurance — What do you need to know?

It is no secret that, year after year, more farmers are considering the possible benefits of cover crops for their cash crops.  But the question for many farmers is whether they can terminate the cover crops without sacrificing crop insurance coverage.

To help answer that question, USDA personnel who helped craft the new cover crop termination policy will be speaking at a webinar on January 23, 2014 from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. E.S.T..  The webinar, hosted by the National Center for Appropriate Technology and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, looks to be a valuable resource for farmers trying to determine the best path forward for their operation.

However, if attending the webinar is not your cup of tea, the cover crop termination policy is also available.  What are the highlights?

  • The linked policy is applicable only to non-irrigated land.  If the land is irrigated, the cover crop must be terminated prior to the cash/insured crop emerging.
  • The policy uses zones to determine when cover crops may be terminated.  Roughly speaking, western Nebraska is in zone 2 and eastern Nebraska in zone 3.  Most of South Dakota is in zone 2, with the exception of a small sliver of eastern South Dakota in zone 3.
  • For zone 2, late spring to fall seeded crops require cover crop termination 15 days or earlier prior to planting the cash crop.  Early spring seeded crops require termination of the cover crop as soon as practicable prior to planting the cash crop.
  • For zone 3, the cover crop must be terminated at or before planting the cash crop.
  • An early spring seeded crop are crops planted as early as possible after the spring thaw.  Examples would be spring wheat, spring barely, sugar beets, and corn.  Later spring planted crops are crops such as soybeans and dry beans.

The policy statement covers frequently asked questions, as well as some technical details.  You are also welcome to contact your resources at the USDA if you have questions about the new policy.  You are also welcome to contact us if you have any questions.

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