In a win for both farmers and conservation efforts, this year's cover crops final harvest date has been shifted to Sept. 1. This new date applies to silage, haylage, and baleage in addition to haying and grazing.
The announcement comes after members of Congress took action to defend farmers planting cover crops on prevented plant acres.
On June 7, Sens. Durbin (IL) and Thune (SD) led a bipartisan group urging USDA to quicken the release of new cover crop guidelines, and allow haying and grazing of cover crops before the previous deadline of Nov. 1.
Their letter cited environmental benefits and noted the late harvest date would likely discourage farmers from planting cover crops. If farmers harvest too early, their prevented plant payments could be reduced.
The senators also noted cover crops will be an important soil building and risk management tool, especially for acres that weren't planted due to the wet spring planting season.
Three days later, Reps. Johnson (SD) and Craig (MN) introduced the Feed Emergency Enhancement During Disasters Act. If passed, the act would create an emergency waiver allowing farmers to graze, chop, or hay cover crops before Nov. 1 in the event of feed shortage due to flood or drought.
The shift in date means farmers who eliminate their cover crops on or after Sept. 1 will still be eligible for full prevented plant indemnity. This timely change demonstrates the power of congressional leaders who are in touch with the needs of their constituents.
(By Kate Hansen is a policy assistant for the Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities)