FAQs On Cover Crops And NRCS Guidelines

The USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) released Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on cover crop management and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Cover Crop Termination Guidelines.

“These questions and answers provide valuable information for producers who want to take advantage of the conservation benefits cover crops provide while remaining in compliance with federal crop insurance rules,” said Brian Frieden, director of RMA’s Springfield Regional Office.

Questions & Answers

The following are Frequently Asked Questions concerning cover crops, the NRCS Guidelines, and crop insurance for the 2014 crop year:

Q. What are cover crops?
A: A crop generally recognized by agricultural experts as agronomically sound for the area for erosion control or other purposes related to conservation or soil improvement. Cover crops include grasses, legumes and forbs for seasonal cover and other conservation purposes. A cover crop, if managed and terminated according to the NRCS Guidelines, is not considered a “crop”.

According to the NRCS Guidelines, cover crops must achieve conservation purposes while minimizing the risks of reducing yields to the following crop due to soil water use. Conservation purpose includes reducing soil erosion, improving soil’s physical and biological properties, supplying of nutrients, and suppressing weeds. Please see your local NRCS office for a listing of appropriate cover crop species, seeding rates, expected growth rates and biomass, and other pertinent information necessary for your locale.

Q. Why were the cover crop guidelines developed, and who was involved?
A: With the increased use of cover crops among agricultural producers, questions and misunderstandings across USDA agencies arose. NRCS, RMA, and FSA united to develop cover crop termination guidelines to address these issues. More than 100 published articles, USDA crop growth models, the Precipitation Effectiveness Index (PEI), and regional and national crop experts contributed to the guidelines developed.

Q. Two different versions of the Cover Crop Termination Guidelines have been released – the first version in June 2013, and the second version in December 2013. Which version should I use?
A: For the 2014 crop year, crops with a June 30th, August 31st, and September 30th contract change date, the June 2013 version of the NRCS Guidelines are to be used. For the 2014 crop year, crops with November 30th or later contract change date, the December 2013 version is to be used.

The contract change date is the calendar date by which changes to the policy, if any, will be made available to the public. To find the contract change date for the insured crop in your county, visit our Actuarial Information Browser. Select the appropriate Reinsurance Year, complete the Crop information, and then click on the “Dates” tab. A contract change date of “June 30, 2013” is referred to as a June 30th contract change date (for the 2014 crop year).

Q. What does ‘Termination’ mean?
A: Termination means growth has ended for 100% of the cover crops, and it is the producer’s responsibility to ensure it is terminated according to the NRCS Guidelines.

Q. Can grazing be used as a form of terminating the crop?
A: A cover crop can be terminated by any means. However, termination means growth has ended for 100% of the cover crop. While grazing in some cases can terminate a cover crop, there is no definitive way to assure growth has ended which will vary based on weather, soil and the type of cover crop utilized. Moreover, grazing could use soil water needed by the insured crop. Regardless of termination method, it is the producer’s responsibility to ensure that 100% of the cover crop is terminated according to the NRCS Guidelines. If you have any question regarding which method is best for ensuring your cover crops is terminated, please consult your local Extension or NRCS office for guidance.

Q. In the Special Provisions statement that addresses the insurability of a crop following a cover crop, it states; “If growing conditions warrant a deviation from the guidelines, producers should contact either Extension or the local NRCS for management guidance”. What do I need to do to get an acceptable deviation from the NRCS Guidelines?
A: To receive a deviation from the NRCS Guidelines, you will need signed, written support from at least two agricultural experts indicating that the requested cover crop management utilized will not adversely affect the yields or quality of the insured crop and allow it to make normal progress toward maturity and produce at least the expected yield.

See Manager’s Bulletin MGR-05-010 for a list of approved agricultural experts.

Q. For my crop that follows a cover crop, what will happen if I do not follow the NRCS Guidelines in the management and termination of my cover crop?
A: Insurance will not attach to the crop following a cover crop not timely or properly terminated in accordance with the NRCS Guidelines. The Special Provisions statement specifies that insurability is dependent on three criteria: the cover crop 1) meets the definition provided in the Basic Provisions; 2) was planted in the last 12 months; and 3) was managed and terminated according the NRCS Guidelines. In the absence of receiving a deviation from following the NRCS Guidelines, failure to meet any one of the three criteria means insurance will not attach to the crop that follows the cover crop.

Q. I disagree with the zone to which my farm is assigned. Can I have my farm assigned to a different cover crop termination/management zone?
A: It is possible to have a different termination management practice approved for your farm, but you would remain in the same zone. If the county has unique topographical or geographic features which result in multiple climate zones within the county, a farm may be authorized different termination management practices compatible with the local climate and/or topographic location. To be authorized a different termination management practice, contact your local County Extension office or local NRCS office for specific cover crop management guidance for your farm. If this guidance results in a different cover crop termination time than your assigned zone, provide copies of the recommendation to your crop insurance agent. However, it should be noted that even under the different termination management practice, cover crops must be terminated no later than emergence of the insured crop.

Q. My insured crop will be irrigated. When do I need to terminate my cover crop?
A: According to the NRCS Guidelines, cover crops in an irrigated cropping system should be terminated based on the crop system and conservation purpose, but before the insured crop emerges.

Q. I live in Kansas in a county that is in Zone 2, and plan to plant non-irrigated corn. According to the guidelines, corn is an early spring seeded crop. Does this mean I can terminate my cover crop at planting instead of 15 days prior to planting?
A: Yes. For early spring seeded crops, such as corn, cover crops will have limited growth in the spring prior to seeding the ‘early’ spring crop, and therefore the cover crop may be terminated at or just prior to planting.

Q. I’m in zone 2, and will plant non-irrigated soybeans. The guidelines state I should terminate my cover crop at least 15 days before planting any insured crop. However, I started a new cover crop strategy on my farm over three years ago which does not impact soybean yields. Can I still insure my soybeans if I terminate the cover crop at planting time?
A: Yes, you can obtain authorization for a different termination management practice if you have adequate records. Generally you will need at least three years of production records from the cash crop that demonstrates the yield is not impacted by a later cover crop termination and you have written support of the later termination from two approved agricultural experts (see Manager’s Bulletin MGR-05-010 for a list of approved agricultural experts). However, it should be noted that even under an approved different termination management practice, cover crops must be terminated no later than crop emergence.

Q. My farm is in a zone 4 county, and I will plant non-irrigated soybeans. There are two non-irrigated crop insurance practices available in this county – FAC (i.e., Following Another Crop) and NFAC (i.e., Not Following Another Crop). If I do not follow the NRCS Guidelines in the management and termination of my cover crop, will my soybeans be considered FAC?
A: No. If you did not follow the NRCS Guidelines, your soybeans will not be insurable. The Special Provisions statement specifies that insurability is dependent on three criteria: the cover crop 1) meets the definition provided in the Basic Provisions; 2) was planted in the last 12 months; and 3) was managed and terminated according the NRCS Guidelines. In the absence of receiving a deviation from following the NRCS Guidelines, failure to meet any one of the three criteria means insurance will not attach to the crop that follows the cover crop. Also, for RMA purposes a cover crop is not considered a “crop”.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

Management Stories

ManagementGROWMARK Meeting Visit, Company Takeover Updates, and RNC Invite
July 22, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent speaking engagement at GROWMARK’s eastern event, crop protection company merger rumors, Read More
ManagementLand O’Lakes Announces SUSTAIN Business Unit, Other Changes
July 20, 2016
Land O’Lakes, Inc. today announced the formal organization of a new business unit, SUSTAIN, and its leadership. SUSTAIN will focus Read More
Corn and ditch
ManagementStudy: Saturated Buffers Reduce Nitrates From Subsurface Field Drainage Systems
July 19, 2016
The Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (ADMC), Agricultural Drainage Management Systems Task Force and Dr. Dan Jaynes with the National Laboratory Read More
Soybean Field
LegislationOhio Soybean Association Names Brian Hill Legislator Of The Year
July 19, 2016
The Ohio Soybean Association (OSA) has announced that State Representative Brian Hill (R-Zanesville) has been named one of two Legislators of Read More
Trending Articles
Heritage Cooperative
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Designs State-Of-The-Art Facility For Heritage Cooperative
July 4, 2016
Heritage Cooperative in Marysville, OH, needed an efficient liquid, dry and grain facility to serve the many needs of their Read More
The Andersons Waterloo
ManagementFirst Indiana Facility Certified Under 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program
June 27, 2016
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that The Andersons, Inc.’s Waterloo, IN, facility has been added to its Read More
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To Explore IT Solutions
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Eric SfiligojWhat’s Next For Monsanto?
May 31, 2016
For the folks at Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis, MO, it has been an eventful few weeks. Back on May Read More
Soybean Plant closeup
Industry NewsMonsanto Rejects Bayer Bid; Open To More Talks
May 25, 2016
Monsanto Co, the world’s largest seed company, turned down Bayer AG’s $62 billion acquisition bid as “incomplete and financially inadequate” Read More
Eric SfiligojPity The Monsanto Haters
May 23, 2016
An old saying goes thus: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” Given current events, there Read More
Latest News
ManagementGROWMARK Meeting Visit, Company Takeover Updates, and R…
July 22, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent speaking engagement at GROWMARK’s eastern event, crop protection company merger rumors, Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto: EU Approves Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Imports
July 22, 2016
Monsanto Co. announced today that the European Commission has granted import approval for Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans. This milestone Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop InputsSyngenta Announces Alfalfa Seed Split Off
July 22, 2016
On September 1, 2016, Syngenta will transfer sales and distribution of alfalfa seed to the NEXGROW branded business that is Read More
Dow DuPont
Crop InputsDuPont, Dow Shareholders Approve Merger
July 21, 2016
DuPont and The Dow Chemical Company announced that, at their respective special meetings of stockholders held today, stockholders of both Read More
ManagementLand O’Lakes Announces SUSTAIN Business Unit, Oth…
July 20, 2016
Land O’Lakes, Inc. today announced the formal organization of a new business unit, SUSTAIN, and its leadership. SUSTAIN will focus Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Crop InputsReport: Bayer Shareholder Proposes Monsanto ‘Host…
July 20, 2016
One of Bayer AG’s top 20 shareholders said Wednesday it may make sense for the life-science company to launch an Read More
Young Corn Closeup
Industry NewsNew Leaf Symbiotics Snags Former Monsanto Microbials Le…
July 20, 2016
NewLeaf Symbiotics, announced today the appointment of Dr. Janne Kerovuo as Vice President for Research and Discovery.  Dr. Kerovuo comes Read More
Corn and ditch
ManagementStudy: Saturated Buffers Reduce Nitrates From Subsurfac…
July 19, 2016
The Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (ADMC), Agricultural Drainage Management Systems Task Force and Dr. Dan Jaynes with the National Laboratory Read More
Case sprayer nozzle closeup
EquipmentAgronomists, CCAs, Custom Applicators Invited To FSR Ag…
July 19, 2016
Agronomists, Certified Crop Advisers (CCA) and custom applicators can stay current on agronomy issues on the grounds of the Farm Read More
Soybean Field
LegislationOhio Soybean Association Names Brian Hill Legislator Of…
July 19, 2016
The Ohio Soybean Association (OSA) has announced that State Representative Brian Hill (R-Zanesville) has been named one of two Legislators of Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Latest Monsanto Rumors: A Game Of Tones
July 18, 2016
When companies are engaged in the back-and-forth of the acquisition game, the tone of their various announcements is always important. Read More
Nozzle spray close-up
AdjuvantsWest Central Distribution Introduces New Elite Family O…
July 14, 2016
West Central Distribution recently released a new line of Elite adjuvants to work alongside the new herbicide technologies that combat Read More
Bayer sign
Crop InputsBayer Makes New Offer For Monsanto
July 14, 2016
Bayer AG boosted its takeover offer for Monsanto Co. to about $65 billion in a bid to overcome the U.S. Read More
ManagementAn Update on Water
July 14, 2016
CropLife Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Matthew Grassi discuss agricultural water issues in conjunction with a recent field trip in Ohio. Read More
Co-Alliance employee
EmployeesNew Purdue Program To Focus On Talent Management
July 14, 2016
Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business is starting a new professional development program to help food and agribusiness Read More
Industry NewsFMC Agricultural Solutions Appoints New Global Regulato…
July 14, 2016
FMC Corp. has named Andy Hedgecock as Global Regulatory Affairs Director for FMC Agricultural Solutions. He joins the company this Read More
Corn Field
Seed/BiotechWhat Can Inoculants Do For You?
July 13, 2016
When it comes to preventing disease and promoting growth in your plants, who couldn’t use a helping hand? By forming Read More
Microbes
Seed/BiotechMighty Farming Microbes: Companies Harness Bacteria To …
July 13, 2016
What if farmers, instead of picking up some agricultural chemicals at their local dealer, picked up a load of agricultural Read More