USDA Clarifies Cover Crop Rules For FSA’s ACRE Program

No-tillers can now seed cover crops and still be eligible for ACRE payments, but more changes are expected with the pending Farm Bill.

In the “Frank Comments” column (Page 6) in the May issue of No-Till Farmer’s Conservation Tillage Guide, we outlined major cover crop concerns with current government payment and crop insurance regulations.

As expected, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) later issued a ruling from the Farm Security Administration (FSA) regarding Acreage Crop Revenue Program (ACRE) payment rules concerning cover crops. However, the new ruling is in effect only for the 2011 and 2012 cropping years due to the pending Farm Bill.

Rule Change Needed. Juan Garcia, Deputy Administrator of Farm Programs for the USDA, says the previous ACRE policy only allowed the initial crop, which was the first crop excluding double-cropping, to be eligible for an ACRE payment. In double-cropping situations, the second crop would be eligible as an ACRE crop, as long as the second crop is a covered commodity such as corn, wheat, soybeans or grain sorghum.

He says FSA has defined double-cropping as being able to plant the first crop and take it to harvest — then planting the second and carrying it to harvest within a 12-month period.

Here’s an example of the previous FSA policy in regard to a covered commodity crop: If corn was planted after a cover crop that is not a covered commodity, the corn would not have been eligible for an ACRE payment since it would not meet the initial-crop definition.

The recent FSA rule change allows farmers to seed cover crops and still be eligible for ACRE payments.

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Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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