NSAC's Blog

Changes to Cover Crop/Crop Insurance Guidelines

January 3, 2014

In December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) revised the cover crop termination guidelines announced over the summer.  USDA issued the original guidelines to address farmers’ concerns that normal cover crop management practices could render them ineligible for crop insurance coverage on subsequently planted cash crops.

The guidelines provide information on when and how cover crops can be terminated based on the zone where the farmer is located, with flexibility built in for regional climatic variability.

The recent changes to the guidelines deal specifically with cover crops planted in conjunction with a summer fallow practice.  Now, across all climatic zones, when summer fallow is being practiced, the cover crop must be terminated at least 90 days prior to planting a summer or fall seeded crop.  This is in contrast to the termination dates for non-fallow practices, which are much shorter and vary by zone.

For early spring seeded crops such as corn or spring wheat, however, whether practicing summer fallow or not, the termination deadline will be as soon as possible prior to planting the spring seeded crop in the central and western part of the country, or, in the eastern part of the country as well as the coastal portion Pacific Northwest, within 5 days after planting.

Additionally, grazing and forage harvest of cover crops is permitted, except where used in conjunction with summer fallow.

The revised guidelines also changed the definition of a cover crop such that it is no longer considered a crop for RMA purposes, unless the cover crop is harvested for grain or seed.

The revised guidelines are available on NRCS’ website or by clicking here (PDF).

Questions?  Get Answers from the Experts

NSAC and the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) will be hosting a webinar on January 23 at 2 PM EST that will give farmers and others affected by the new cover crop policy an opportunity to ask questions of cover crop, conservation, and crop insurance experts.

The webinar is free and open to the public.  For more information, click here.

To join the webinar, visit https://attra.ncat.org/cover_crop.

Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment

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