USDA Confirms Cover Crops Eligible for Tariff Aid

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Prevent plant field ( Jo Windmann )

Farmers who were prevented from planting crops this year due to the unrelenting rains will be able to maintain eligibility for a minimal Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payment by planting cover crops. USDA has been searching for a loophole to provide MFP coverage for prevent plant acres. USDA officials held a press call Monday to clarify coverage of cover crops and other actions taken by USDA in what could be an unprecedented year of prevented planting.

USDA has targeted just over $14 billion for MFP payments for the 2019 growing season to ease the financial impact to farmers of the ongoing trade dispute with China. The first of three rounds of payments is set to be paid out in late July or August.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) also announced special signups in 8 states for cost share assistance for cover crops under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Participating states include Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota, though Lohr said he expects that list to grow.  The special signup periods are designed to streamline the approval process for farmers who were unable to plant a crop this year, according to NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr.  Details on signup vary by state, so growers are encouraged to visit a local NRCS office for signup assistance.

Prevent plant filing has been brisk according to Risk Management Agency Chief of Staff Keith Gray, with $151 million in claims already paid out. 

“A billion dollars would be within the realm of possibility, I think, as we get the final notice of loss as we get into the end of July.” Gray said. “

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The prevent plant acres in 2019 will likely be unprecedented according to USDA Under Seretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey.

“We have seen over the last 10 years or so anywhere between 2 and up to 10 million acres that have had prevent plan, either through the reporting at FSA or through RMA claims as well,” Northey said. “I would think we’d be at least towards the high end of what the previous range was. And as we look at what we were going into this year, up until the last few weeks, we have been worse than anything we’ve seen in the last 10 years. So it would not be out of line to suggest they could easily exceed that high range.”

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) and RMA have also harmonized some filing requirements to streamline prevent plan paperwork.

“As long as the producer timely files their prevented planting claim with the Risk Management Agency, FSA will accept that as being timely filed for acreage reporting purposed up until the FSA final acreage reporting date of July 15,” FSA Associate Administrator Steve Peterson explained. “So for insured producers, as long as they’re meeting their RMA requirements, they can come in up to July 15 and report their prevented planting and FSA will consider that as being timely filed.”

Crops eligible for a 2019 MFP payment include alfalfa hay, barley, canola, corn, crambe, dry peas, extra-long staple cotton, flaxseed, lentils, long grain and medium grain rice, millet, mustard seed, dried beans, oats, peanuts, rapeseed, rye, safflower, sesame seed, small and large chickpeas, sorghum, soybeans, sunflower seed, temperate japonica rice, triticale, upland cotton, and wheat. According to USDA, corn and soybeans can be planted as cover crops but can not be harvested for grain if a prevent plant claim has been filed.

“Corn is deep-rooted and by the end of the growing season can produce significant residue even when planted in July,” says Joe Lauer, Extension agronomist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The first thing you must do, however, is talk to your crop insurance agent and make no decisions without their input.” See Lauer’s complete comments on the subject at Guidance When Using Corn as a Cover Crop.