Cover crops improve soil health and water quality
The Indiana State Department of Agriculture, The Nature Conservancyand the United State Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency have joined forces to implement the Upper White River Crop Insurance Incentive Program. This program mirrors efforts in Iowa and Illinois, and will reward farmers who plant cover crops by providing a reduced premium on their crop insurance. The discount program was designed to promote additional acres of cover crops that are not covered by other state or federal incentives.
“Our natural resources are some of Indiana’s most valuable assets and we must strive to protect them,” said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch. “This funding will allow our upper white region farmers the opportunity to increase cover crop usage, increase the filtration of water and put farm income toward another need on their operation.”
This program provides growers with a unique opportunity to receive financial incentive for implementing cover crops on their operation. Farmers who plant cover crops on owned or rented acres will receive a five dollar per acre crop insurance premium for this three-year program. Farmers who planted cover crops in the fall of 2020 are also eligible to apply. Currently, this program is only available to farmers in the Upper White Region.
Qualifying counties in the Upper White Region include Henry, Delaware, Madison, Hamilton, Tipton and Randolph.
Cover cropping has many benefits including increased organic matter, improved soil biology, as well as better water infiltration and water-holding capacity. This practice also prevents nutrients and sediment from running off the farm, keeping them out of nearby waterbodies and streams. Hoosier farmers planted 950,000 acres of cover crops in 2019 and, apart from corn and soybeans, are planted on more acres than any other commodity crop in Indiana.
“The Nature Conservancy and ISDA, in partnership with the other Indiana Agriculture Nutrient Alliance member agencies, commodity organizations and Purdue University, has established proactive conservation goals for Indiana, including 40% of Indiana cropland utilizing winter cover crops by 2025,” said Larry Clemens, state director for The Nature Conservancy’s Indiana Chapter. “This program provides an additional opportunity for farmers to incorporate soil health on their operations and keep Indiana as not only the leader of soil health, but the epicenter.”
Bruce Kettler, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture encourages farmers to take advantage of this unique funding opportunity.
“Our farmers do a great job of implementing soil conservation practices in their operations, but at times cost can be a factor, especially this year,” Kettler said. “With this financial benefit from the help of our partners, I am hopeful Hoosier farmers will be willing to increase soil conservation practices on their farms and continue improving soil health.”
Seeding of cover crops must follow best agronomic practices in terms of seeding dates, appropriate seeding rates, seed mixes, seeding dates to ensure objectives of the cover crop are being met. To ensure the practice provides the best results termination must be completed in the spring.
Funding support for this program was supplied by the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. In 2017, the trust initiated collaborative grants to several Indiana nonprofit organizations, forming Partners for the White River. Collectively, these organizations are conserving and improving the White River and providing opportunities for Hoosiers to once again feel connected to their waterways. Partners are performing water quality research and monitoring, helping reduce pollution, improving wildlife habitat and increasing access to – and awareness of – the waterway. Currently, this trust is focused on the White River, which is why only farmers in the Upper White Region counties are eligible.