Be Prepared To Educate Agents, Adjusters On Cover Crop Practices

Recordkeeping and communication can help no-tillers follow the NRCS’ new cover-crop termination rules and keep their fields insured.

Cash crops seeded last fall and this spring will fall under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new cover-crop termination guidelines, devised last year by a task force of the Risk Management Agency (RMA), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and several other ag stakeholders.

The new rules include new definitions of various cropping systems and spell out when covers should be killed, according to four “termination zones.” The zones were drawn up based mostly on moisture levels and availability.

No-tillers are given 7 additional days to terminate covers because no-till provides a higher level of water retention and infiltration than conventional tillage.

Key Details

In the past, weather issues like excessive rainfall and high winds delayed cover-crop termination in some regions, causing many farmers to lose insurance because agents were relying on calendar-based rules. Regulators often blamed covers for interfering with agronomic practices of the insured crop.

The new NRCS rules don’t allow agents or adjusters to blame cover crops for delays, but word of these changes has traveled slowly, says Ryan Stockwell, senior agriculture program manager for the National Wildlife Federation.

The definition of “interplanting” will likely cause the most problems, he says. The NRCS rules define interplanting as “acreage on which two or more crops are planted in a manner that does not permit separate agronomic maintenance or harvest of the insured crop.”

“In most situations, weather is the impeding factor in managing cover crops and the insured crop. That’s an issue the RMA and…

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John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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