Source: American Farmland Trust news release
Dekalb, IL – Today, American Farmland Trust, the organization behind the national movement No Farms No Food, is celebrating the success of the Illinois Cover Crop Premium Discount Program, otherwise known as Fall Covers for Spring Savings, FCSS. Within the first seven business days of its launch on Dec. 4, 2019, the 50,000 acres cap was reached. By the deadline of Jan. 15, 2020,-there were over 136,000 acres submitted showing a positive level of interest and need for this program.
The FCSS is designed to promote the planting of additional acres of cover crops that are not already covered by other state or federal incentives. Illinois is the second state in the nation to offer its farmers a crop insurance discount for cover crops, preceded by Iowa.
The Illinois Legislature approved a new line item in the Illinois Department of Agriculture, IDoA, 2020 budget for $300,000 to fund the crop insurance premium discount program for cover crops. Funding is distributed on a first come, first serve basis.
Two hundred twelve farmers will be taking advantage of FCSS, planting 50,000 acres under the program. An additional 50,000 acres were already planted by the two hundred twelve applicants, and these acres were not eligible for this program because they were already receiving some incentives. AFT is thrilled that the number of acres submitted exceeded the amount originally allocated and that farmers are taking it one step further by planting additional acres even despite the cap, hoping it will encourage further funding for the program in next year’s IDoA fiscal budget.
Cover crops are one of the main in-field management practices listed in the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, IL NLRS, as having the potential to reduce nutrient losses from non-point agriculture sources by at least 30%. Fifty-seven of the 102 counties in Illinois have approved applicants for the FCSS-which makes this program evenly distributed across the state.
Dave Schluckebier, who enrolled in the program expresses, “I’ve been telling my friends about this program and how it is a great way to get into using cover crops. I was able to apply for about 645 acres total. The application was simple, but it went into a few different directions of requirements. The local SWCD employees helped me to fill-out the online application.”
Cover crops can also improve the resiliency of Illinois farm operations by improving the soil’s ability to absorb and hold water for crops. In other words, when managed well, cover crops can reduce the risk of yield being impacted by bad weather.
Andrew Reuschel, who also enrolled in the program says, “We have done cover crops without EQIP or CSP and it has been out of our pockets. I was excited about this program because there was an opportunity to receive a crop insurance discount on 100% of my cropland acres that are completely planted in cover crops. I went into my local NRCS office and the SWCD staff was able to help me apply for the FCSS program.”
AFT worked the past two years with IDoA agency staff and nearly 20 individuals from agricultural, environmental, and conservation organizations to develop a crop insurance premium discount program for cover crops in Illinois and get funding included in the 2020 budget.
American Farmland Trust remains committed to meeting the goals of the IL NLRS and continuing to support farmers in opportunities to try a practice that is proven to improve the health of the soil.