NSAC's Blog

Farmers Can Participate in Cover Crop Survey

March 4, 2015

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program is sponsoring a national survey on cover crops that is being conducted by the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC). CTIC and SARE are asking farmers of all stripes to respond to the survey; there is no need to be a current user of cover crops. The survey can be completed online through the survey’s website. NSAC strongly encourages farmers to participate in the survey.

This is the third year that this survey has been conducted. The information collected by the survey will help answer questions about how farmers are using cover crops, why they do or don’t use them, and what impact cover crops are having on yield and profitability. It will also help generate information to guide future cover crop research.

Results from the 2013-2014 survey were released in November 2014. For instance, that survey found that when a cover crop was planted before corn, yields increased 3.1 percent and for soybeans the yield increase was 4.3 percent.

SARE and Cover Crops

SARE is a great resource for farmers that are thinking about planting a cover crop. SARE’s cover crop topic room has a large amount of information for farmers about cover crops. The cover crop topic room contains information about the selection, management, and economics of cover crops.

One of the main cover crop related publications produced by SARE is its Managing Cover Crops Profitably publication, which is now in its 3rd edition.

SARE Funding on the Decline

While SARE has funded the development of a wealth of information on cover crops and a large variety of other sustainable agriculture topics since its creation in 1988, many worthy projects have gone unfunded. Only six percent of SARE Research & Education grant applications could be funded in 2013 due to severe funding constraints.

SARE is authorized in the farm bill to receive up to $60 million; but it has never received more that $22.7 million in annual appropriations. Between 2010 and 2013 its funding was stuck at $19.2 million, which means that in real dollars the program shrunk during those years. NSAC is pushing for an increase in funding to $30 million in Fiscal Year 2016. This modest increase will help worthy sustainable agriculture research projects get going.

Interested in supporting SARE? Go to NSAC’s action page to sign-up to help take action in support of SARE and other sustainable agriculture policies and programs.

Background on the SARE Program

It is often said that farmers know what is best for the land because they have worked it through a process of trial and error. SARE helps formalize and provide funding for this farmer-driven research and also helps publicize the results to other farmers. SARE has been funding sustainable agriculture research for over 25 years and is a regionally based, farmer driven, and outcome-oriented competitive research program that involves farmers and ranchers directly in research as the primary investigators or as cooperators in larger research and education projects.

SARE is the only USDA competitive grants research program that focuses solely on sustainable agriculture by addressing the three Ps of sustainability:

  • Profit over the long term;
  • Protection of the land and water; and
  • People (communities) who depend on agriculture.

SARE is administered through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and is run by four regional councils of producers, researchers, educators, and government representatives that set SARE policy and make grants.

In addition to research, SARE also conducts education and extension programs in an effort to increase knowledge about – and help farmers and ranchers adopt – sustainable farming practices. SARE Outreach produces and distributes practical information based on the program’s more than 25 years of research results.

Learn more on NSAC’s SARE website.

Categories: Budget and Appropriations, Conservation, Energy & Environment, Research, Education & Extension

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