Ag Policy Blog

Lawmakers to USDA: Change Prevented-Planting Haying and Grazing Date

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Members of Congress want USDA to allow haying and grazing of cover crops on prevented-planting acres to be allowed earlier than the November 1 date USDA has set historically. (DTN file photo by Pamela Smith)

A bi-partisan group of senators and House members are asking USDA to again allow haying and grazing of cover crops on prevented-planting acres before Nov. 1.

USDA loosened prevented-planting rules for haying and grazing cover crops last year when flooding across the country led to just under 20 million acres of farm that did not get planted in cash crops before the insurance deadlines. USDA also had incentivized the planting of cover crops on those prevented-planting acres last year by tacking on minimum Market Facilitation Program payments on ground planted to cover crops.

Typically, farmers must avoid haying and grazing cover crops on prevented-planted acres before November 1, or they are considered as getting financial value out of the cover crop so their insurance indemnity is reduced.

The acreage for prevented-planting ground is expected to come in dramatically lower this year and more in line with historical averages. Monday's Crop Progress report shows corn and soybean plantings in the major states for both crops as largely ahead of schedule, though a few states are lagging behind their five-year averages.

In their letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the senators and U.S. representatives, lawmakers again want USDA to waive the penalties for haying and grazing cover crops "as long as the activities are outside of the primary nesting season." The lawmakers argue that would help with feed for the backlog of livestock because of packing plant closures and slower production lines due to COVID-19. "It would also encourage the adoption of cover crops, which improve soil health, suppress weeds and reduce erosion," the lawmakers wrote.

The lawmakers want USDA to move the date for grazing, haying and chopping cover crops to Sept. 1, "due to unprecedented environmental and economic circumstances."

At least some lawmakers had introduced legislation earlier this year that would permanently move the haying and grazing date from Nov. 1 to Sept. 1.

The full letter and lawmakers who signed onto it can be viewed at https://www.thune.senate.gov/…

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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