Hoeven Working to Provide Flexibility, Certainty for Producers Using Cover Crops on Prevent Plant Acres

Senator Urging USDA to Modify November 1 Haying & Grazing Date for Cover Crops

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee and a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, this week urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide greater flexibility and certainty for agriculture producers using cover crops on prevent plant acres. Specifically, the senator is pressing for clear guidelines for cover crop termination and an earlier date for the haying and grazing of cover crops, which the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) has currently set for November 1. 

Hoeven is working on this priority after hearing about concerns with the November 1 date from producers at a roundtable he held in Mandan last week. Accordingly, he has raised the issue with USDA officials, including in a call to Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Stephen Censky and a bipartisan letter he signed to USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey. The certainty provided by clear guidelines and an earlier haying and grazing date will encourage the greater use of cover crops, which help in reducing soil erosion, improving soil health, weed suppression and moisture retention.

“Cover crops are an important tool for our farmers, allowing prevent plant acres to be better maintained and protecting environmental quality,” said Hoeven. “However, RMA’s current requirements prevent producers from making good use of cover crops. The reality is that the November 1 date is too late in the year, especially in northern states, for producers to be able to reliably hay or graze these acres. That’s why we are urging the administration to remove roadblocks that limit the use of cover crops and provide flexibility under the cover crop haying and grazing date.” 

The 2018 Farm Bill established a clear definition for cover crop termination; however, the RMA has yet to implement this section of the law. The RMA also requires producers to wait until November 1 before haying or grazing the cover crops on prevent plant acres. This creates uncertainty for producers, as unpredictable weather may prevent the utilization of the cover crop. Further, haying or grazing prior to November 1 may result in the loss of eligibility for federal crop insurance. These factors have limited the adoption of cover crops, despite their benefits.