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

Young Corn Plants
ManagementTimac Agro USA Acquires Michigan Ag Retailer
January 20, 2017
Timac Agro USA, an agriculture supply company specializing in high-efficiency plant and animal nutrition products, has acquired St. Louis,MI-based A&E Ag, Read More
Sonny Perdue
LegislationTrump Formally Picks Perdue As Agriculture Secretary
January 19, 2017
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump officially announced Sonny Perdue as his choice for secretary of agriculture on Thursday, selecting a former Read More
ManagementPresident Trump, Wisconsin Review, and a Dow-DuPont Update
January 18, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj reflect on a new administration, a recent winter show, and crop protection company mergers. Read More
Werner Baumann, Bayer AG, and Hugh Grant, Monsanto
Industry NewsReport: Monsanto, Bayer CEOs Among Latest to Make Trump Tower Pilgrimage
January 18, 2017
The chief executive officers of German chemical giant Bayer AG and U.S. seed behemoth Monsanto, Werner Baumann and Hugh Grant, Read More
Trending Articles
AgriSync
Matt Hopkins17 Agriculture Apps That Will Help You Farm Smarter In 2017
December 9, 2016
Ag professionals are working smarter, not harder, than ever before. Smart farming technologies have enabled them to reduce costs, maximize Read More
R4023 Sprayer, John Deere
CropLife 100Ag Retail Equipment Report: The Green Party Continues
December 7, 2016
In the annual race for sales in the ag retail equipment marketplace, the color schemes for participants are a little Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls And Bears Impacting This Year’s Marketplace
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMissouri Governor Meets With Bayer CEO To Discuss Monsanto Merger
November 21, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Bayer AG global headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, on November 18 to discuss the proposed Bayer-Monsanto Read More
Latest News
Eric SfiligojNo Alternative Facts: Dicamba Cropping System Applicato…
January 23, 2017
During President Donald Trump’s inauguration, much fuss was made over the use of the term “alternative facts” vs. some of Read More
Young Corn Plants
ManagementTimac Agro USA Acquires Michigan Ag Retailer
January 20, 2017
Timac Agro USA, an agriculture supply company specializing in high-efficiency plant and animal nutrition products, has acquired St. Louis,MI-based A&E Ag, Read More
Soybean field
Crop InputsNufarm Teams Up With John Deere Financial
January 19, 2017
Nufarm and John Deere Financial have teamed up to help farmers grow a better tomorrow. This program helps make purchases Read More
Sonny Perdue
LegislationTrump Formally Picks Perdue As Agriculture Secretary
January 19, 2017
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump officially announced Sonny Perdue as his choice for secretary of agriculture on Thursday, selecting a former Read More
ManagementPresident Trump, Wisconsin Review, and a Dow-DuPont Upd…
January 18, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj reflect on a new administration, a recent winter show, and crop protection company mergers. Read More
Industry NewsBayer, MS Technologies Get China Approval For Balance G…
January 18, 2017
MS Technologies and Bayer have received import approval from China for Balance GT soybeans. The new Balance GT Soybean Performance Read More
Werner Baumann, Bayer AG, and Hugh Grant, Monsanto
Industry NewsReport: Monsanto, Bayer CEOs Among Latest to Make Trump…
January 18, 2017
The chief executive officers of German chemical giant Bayer AG and U.S. seed behemoth Monsanto, Werner Baumann and Hugh Grant, Read More
Giant Ragweed
HerbicidesStudy: Focusing On Weed Seedbank Can Help Manage Herbic…
January 18, 2017
Researchers writing in the latest issue of the journal Weed Science provide important insights on the control of herbicide-resistant giant Read More
Management3 Financial Trends To Watch In Agriculture
January 17, 2017
I recently had the opportunity to attend a meeting of credit managers for Midwest ag supply and input companies, in part Read More
Andersons Retail Store
CropLife 100The Andersons To Close All Retail Stores; Shutdown Does…
January 16, 2017
In a stunning announcement to the Toledo area, The Andersons Inc. said on Sunday that it would close its two Read More
Trimble TMX-2050 In-Cab Display
Eric SfiligojPrecision To Lead Agriculture In 2017?
January 16, 2017
Another new year is upon us! And I’m certain I speak for many in the agricultural world when I say Read More
Corn
Eric SfiligojThe Mood From Madison? In A Holding Pattern
January 16, 2017
Last week, I had the chance to attend the annual Wisconsin AgriBusiness Classic show in Madison, WI. It’s been a Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsAccenture Helps Syngenta Transform Its Global Logistics
January 13, 2017
Syngenta, a leading agriculture company, has collaborated with Accenture to design and implement a new digital logistics operating model across Read More
Fall Creek Seth Harden The Nature Conservancy
StewardshipLocal Farmers’ Watershed Initiative: Continuous Improve…
January 13, 2017
The goal in the Big Pine Watershed Project is to more intentionally do what local farmers and responsible ag retailers Read More
HerbicidesEPA Expands Enlist Duo Herbicide Registration To 34 Sta…
January 13, 2017
The U.S. EPA has expanded the geography for application of Enlist Duo herbicide from 15 to 34 states. This means Read More
Olson Ag Enterprise
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires Nebraska Seed Retailer
January 13, 2017
Wilbur-Ellis’ Agribusiness, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed and nutritional Read More
ManagementDeere-Precision Planting Update and the Ag Secretary Wa…
January 12, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj provide the latest on the court date for John Deere/Precision Planting and the quest Read More
Monsanto sign
Seed/BiotechMonsanto, NRGene Form Agreement For Big Data Genomic An…
January 12, 2017
Monsanto Co. and NRGene have announced that the companies have reached a non-exclusive, multi-year global licensing agreement on NRGene’s genome-analysis Read More