Tuesday, May 31, 2011


For my column this week I’m adapting an article written by the great Roger Bender, AgNR of Shelby County. I was going to cover the topic but Roger did such a great job that there is no need for me to reinvent the wheel. I simply polished it to a high gloss for our Darke County farmers.

In recent years, more farmers have embraced the use of cover crops for a host of different reasons, often with a prominent focus on surface water quality. From reducing soil erosion to retaining nutrients applied as commercial or organic fertilizer, use of plant species to protect our surface water, while improving the soil, has been encouraged by a host of different local, state and federal government entities.

Recently, the Risk Management Agency (RMA) adjusted the termination date required for cover crops from May 15 to May 20 and as of last Thursday June 1 for corn and June 10 for soybeans (for spring planted crops to retain eligibility for crop insurance coverage). This action seemingly recognized the dilemma faced by farmers who had seeded soil protective plantings last fall. Of course most of us realize that much more flexibility is needed to destroy these cover crops due to the extended period of saturated soil conditions. Unfortunately, at this writing, national level meetings between RMA officials and farmer commodity group leaders, among others, were unable to resolve several issues related to cover crops not yet terminated.

Additional concerns surfaced during recent crop insurance meetings designed to update farmers on specifics related to late planting and prevented planting options. Policy decisions made at the national level allegedly penalize farmers whose cover crops have gone to seed and supposedly delay planting of corn or soybeans into killed cover crops by two weeks.

Essentially, RMA personnel cited unnamed Ohio State and Purdue informational resources for their positions on both termination dates and delayed planting into killed cover crop stands. Over a two day period, Roger Bender tried to identify those informational pieces with both OSU and Purdue agronomy specialists. Between calls and emails, we gained additional insight on the much of the bureaucratic snafu.

Contacts made by Mr. Bender with Ohio State University Extension Specialists Mark Loux (Weeds), Peter Tomison (Corn), Mark Sulc (Forages), Alan Sundermeier (Cover Crops) and Harold Watters (Ag Crops Team Coordinator) allowed Mr. Bender to forward related information to Rob Joslin, American Soybean Association Chairman, who was representing farmer perspectives on a national level. Additional knowledge contributions from Purdue Extension Specialists Bob Nielsen (Corn) and Eileen Kladivco (Cover Crops/Water Quality) were also forwarded to Joslin. Kladivco indicated that the Midwest Cover Crop Council and the National Wildlife Federation added their perspectives, encouraging the RMA to not penalize farmers who chose to grow cover crops.

Everyone Roger visited with recognized the irony of various government agencies encouraging the use of cover crops as a conservation practice being contradicted by another federal bureaucracy now proposing a penalty on farmers unable to modify their actions due to the temperament of Mother Nature.

We also agreed that the use of cover crops as a soil and water conservation practice is “dead in the water” if present RMA policies are not modified.

Once again, be sure to stay in touch with your crop insurance representative to stay in compliance with the latest guidelines. As most are aware, June 5 is the “final plant date” for corn and June 20 is the “final plant date” for soybeans. If saturated soils force a prevented planting decision, be sure to contact your crop insurance agent.

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