Ag Policy Blog

Grassley Asks Vilsack to Fix Crop Insurance, Cover Crops Glitches

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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Farmers in Iowa have been running into difficulties with crop insurance potentially becoming void with the use of cover crops, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said during a press conference with agriculture journalists Tuesday.

The concerns he has heard from producers in his state prompted Grassley to ask U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to make needed adjustments to the federal crop insurance program, he said, in order to ensure farmers can expand the use of cover crops without fears of losing insurance coverage.

In a letter to Vilsack Tuesday the senator expressed concern about how the USDA’s Risk Management Agency approaches the use of over-seeding, in particular, when it comes to corn.

“As you know, the use of cover crops is rapidly expanding throughout the Midwest,” Grassley said in the letter. “Many farmers looking to improve their soil and prevent heavy rains from leaching nutrients out of fields have invested in this conservation practice over the last several years. RMA currently refers to the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s cover crop termination guidelines to offer interested farmers guidance for using cover crops.

“While the guidelines are clear regarding how to terminate cover crops before planting an insured crop, they are ambiguous regarding over-seeding.”

Specifically, Grassley told Vilsack the NRCS guidelines state that “over-seeding or inter-seeding can occur at an appropriate time for the cover crop and germination, or into an existing crop at a time that will not impact the yield or harvest of the insured crop.”

Over-seeding is considered to be an important option for planting cover crops on land in the upper Midwest for a number of reasons.

“The process expands the planting window that is otherwise limited to the time between harvest and the first hard freeze,” Grassley said in the letter. “Over-seeding allows cover crops to achieve more growth in the fall, which is key to the benefits they offer farmers and landowners.

“I have heard from producers that confusing exists between RMA and crop insurance companies regarding policies for over-seeding cover crops. In fact, some farmers have been told their crop insurance policies could be voided if they over-seed cover crops into corn. Therefore, I ask that RMA clarify the rules for over-seeding, perhaps by specifying a growth stage an insured crop should reach before over-seeding is acceptable.”

Grassley told reporters he’s not surprised there are a few glitches when it comes to cover crop use and insurance as the use of cover crops continues to grow.

“I am confident RMA will be able to sort it out,” Grassley said.

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