The USDA Risk Management Agency announced that haying and grazing of cover crops on prevented planted acres will be allowed on Sept. 1, rather than the traditional Nov. 1.

The change is being because of this spring’s flooding and excessive rain in many areas of the United States. This change is for this year only; in the future, the date remains Nov. 1.

Farmers who plant a cover crop on the prevent plant acres will be able to harvest the cover crop beginning on Sept. 1 without losing any of their crop insurance prevented planted payment.

There are large numbers of prevented planted corn and soybean acres in some areas of the Midwest. The federal crop insurance prevented planting payments are 55 percent of the original crop insurance guarantee for corn and 60 percent of the original guarantee for soybeans.

Based on an earlier USDA announcement, farmers who plant eligible cover crops on prevented planted acres could also be eligible to receive market facilitation program (MFP) payments on those acres.

Unplanted acres that are left bare, with no cover crop, will not be eligible for MFP payments. Farmers should check with their local Farm Service Agency office for details on eligibility for MFP payments.

Due to the late planting and poor early season growing conditions, many livestock producers are concerned about meeting their feed needs later this year and into early 2020. Moving the haying and grazing date to Sept. 1 gives dairy and beef producers more viable options to harvest quality forage.

Here are some things for farmers to consider for cover crops on prevented planted acres:

• Will the cover crops be raised as a forage crop for livestock feed or just to protect the soil?

This will probably dictate what cover crops are considered by a farmer. A livestock producer will want the maximize the feed quality and harvest quantity. A farmer whp wants to protect the soil will focus on a cover crop that prevents erosion and enhances soil structure. Farmers can contact their agronomist or crop consultant for advice and their seed dealer about seed cost and availability.

• Farmers should check with their crop insurance agent before finalizing cover crop decisions on prevented planted acres. Make sure that cover crop being considered is approved for that county, and that the cover crop selected will not affect the crop insurance prevent plant indemnity payments.

• Many livestock producers are wondering if corn will be allowed as a potential cover crop on the prevent plant acres. The RMA says early maturing corn will be allowed as a cover crop to be harvested as forage in most areas; however, some states or counties may have restrictions. Corn that is seeded as a cover crop can not be harvested for grain. Check with your crop insurance agent or local NRCS office regarding the use for corn as a cover crop.

Some outlets are reporting that non-livestock farmers can sell the forage produced from the prevent plant acres to livestock producers. This provision was not listed in the original USDA RMA information announcing the date change. Farmers should check with their crop insurance agent before making this assumption. If selling the forage is not permitted, a farmer could be required to forfeit their entire crop insurance prevent plant indemnity payments.

The USDA RMA change to allow grazing, haying and forage harvesting on Sept. 1 should be a big plus for dairy and beef producers. It should also be a benefit for soil stewardship. But farmers should check with their crop insurance agent, Natural Resource Conservation Service office and other appropriate professionals before finalizing cover crop decisions.

Kent Thiesse is a farm management analyst and senior vice president of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, Minn.

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