Crop Insurance Today Third Quarter 2020 - 9

Because of the varied benefits, cover crops
have an off-farm impact too. Cover crops lessen runoff and leaching from fields and reduce
silt loads and nutrient loss to waterways and
groundwater thus improving water quality on a
watershed scale. These off-farm benefits are a focus of the Iowa Water Quality Initiative. The Iowa
Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, in conjunction with the Risk Management
Agency (RMA), is offering premium discounts
to acreage grown with cover crops. The crop
insurance industry is participating in this state's
incentive program as well as programs in other
states, including Illinois. This proactive support
by the crop insurance industry is another example of why the public-private partnership works
to deliver crop insurance to our nation's farmers.
A farmer's reason for integrating cover crops
vary because the benefits and practices can be localized. But for some, the adoption of cover crops
came from necessity.
"When I first started planting cover crops in
2012, that was the year it was really, really dry,"
said McFarland. "We baled all our corn stalks off
and the ground was just like powder. I was scared
to death it was going to blow away, so we planted
rye in it."
It appears that he may not have been the only
farmer feeling that way in 2012. SARE's last cover
crop census found that between the years 2012
and 2017, cover cropping increased by nearly
50 percent in the United States. In the Midwest
Corn Belt states, the increase was astounding.
Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Illinois each
experienced a more than 100 percent increase in
the number of acres planted to cover crops.
With this growth, cover cropping received
specific attention in the 2018 Farm Bill. The farm
bill provides that cover cropping will now be
considered a good farming practice (GFP). As a
good farming practice, cover cropping is treated
the same as any other management practice, and
once the cash crop is planted, insurance attaches.
"I think they've changed their thinking a lot
in the last five to six years on cover crops and I
haven't had any problems at all as far as crop insurance is concerned," said McFarland.
Farmers can ensure that their cover cropping
management system is a good farming practice
by following the Natural Resources Conservation Service's (NRCS) Cover Crop Termination
Guidelines Version 4, dated June 2019. The current guidelines still offer the 4-Zone (geographic-based) termination guidance of pre-approved

Terminating cereal rye. The corn planter followed the sprayer and the field was planted green
so that the cover crop could maximize biomass at termination.

termination times found in previous versions,
but flexibility is added for locally adaptive management. For instance, farmers have the flexibility of delaying termination by utilizing published
materials from agricultural experts that support
their management following the RMA's GFP Determination Standards Handbook. For additional
flexibility, farmers may request exceptions from
the zone-based guidelines by receiving written
support from an agricultural expert, per the GFP
Handbook.
The GFP Handbook defines an agricultural
expert as, "...person(s) who are employed by the
Cooperative Extension System or the agricultural departments of universities, or other persons
approved by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIS), whose research or occupation is
related to the specific crop or practice for which
such expertise is sought. Persons who have a personal or financial interest in the insured or the
crop will not qualify as an agricultural expert.
Contracting with a person for consulting would
be considered to have a financial interest and a
person who is a neighbor would be considered
to have a personal interest." The GFP Handbook
offers an explanatory note in Exhibit 2 describing

specific examples of who is considered an agricultural expert.
The current NRCS guidelines resulted from an
inter-agency work group organized by the NRCS,
RMA, and the Farm Service Agency (FSA). This
collaboration brings together expertise in crop
insurance, conservation, and farm program
services and greatly improves consistency and
communication between federal, state, and private stakeholders. The guidelines integrate new
knowledge and data relating to cover cropping
management and adoption that has expanded
greatly since the last revision of the termination
guidelines six years ago.
The latest guidelines are working because
they support farmers' decisions about the management of their farms and corrects the ambiguity of terminology and guidance provided in
previous versions. These guidelines should be
long-lasting, yet flexible, and as such will relieve
confusion resulting from rapidly changing guidance in past years. A farmer's and the crop insurance industry's understanding of where cover
crops and crop insurance stand before the season
begins is a great improvement.
Another positive change that removes uncerCROPINSURANCE TODAY®

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Crop Insurance Today Third Quarter 2020

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