The NRCS has released updates to its guidelines for cover crop termination. These guidelines apply only to non-irrigated cropland, including systems that contain a fallow period. 

According to Ryan Stockwell, senior agriculture program manager for the National Wildlife Federation, there are four key changes:

1. Clarification that grazing or haying of cover crops is allowed unless otherwise indicated by the Risk Management Agency (RMA) on specific insurance policies.

2. Cover crops in summer fallow must be terminated at least 1 full year before planting of an insured crop. If they're not terminated within that time frame, then the insured crop would be considered continuous cropping. This results in lower guaranteed yields and higher premiums, and may not even be available in some counties.

"Ironically, producers may terminate a crop intended for harvest at least 90 days before planting a subsequent crop, and still maintain summer fallow coverage," Stockwell says. "These arbitrary rules for identical agronomic practices will create significant difficulties for RMA in enforcing such rules."

3. The definition of a cover crop is clarified. The NRCS states that "crops including grasses, legumes and forbs for seasonal cover and other conservation purposes" are defined cover crops, and that they're primarily used for erosion control, soil health and water quality improvement. 

"A cover crop managed and terminated according to these guidelines is not considered a 'crop' for crop insurance purposes. The cover crop may be terminated by natural causes such as frost, or intentionally terminated through chemical application, crimping, rolling, tillage, or cutting," the guidelines say. 

4. The definition of termination is simplified. The NRCS says that termination means "growth has ended."