USDA allows early haying and grazing on prevented planting acres

By Kent Thiesse

The USDA Risk Management Agency announced that haying and grazing of cover crops on prevented planted acres will now be allowed on September 1. This is two months earlier than the traditional November 1 date, a move made due to the unprecedented flooding and excessive rain this spring.

This change will make it easier for good stewardship on prevented planted acres and provides an opportunity for higher quality forage for livestock producers. The date will revert to November 1 next year.

Farmers that plant a cover crop on the prevent plant acres will be able to harvest the cover crop beginning on September 1 without losing any of their crop insurance prevented planted payment. 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 potential market facilitation program payments on the prevented planted acres. The 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 further details.

Due to late planting and poor early season growing conditions, many livestock producers have been concerned with meeting their feed needs later this year and into early 2020. Moving the haying and grazing date from November 1 to September 1 gives dairy and beef producers more viable options to harvest quality forage from cover crops on the prevent plant acres.

USDA also indicated that putting up the forage on prevent plant acres as haylage of silage would be acceptable, which gives farmers some additional options to consider.

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? A livestock producer will want to maximize feed quality and quantity when the forage is harvested after September 1. A farmer that wants to protect the soil will place more focus on selecting a cover crop that prevents erosion and enhances soil structure.
  • 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. There is not a set list of approved cover crops on prevented planted acres, as the allowable cover crops can vary from state to state and county to county. The Natural Resource Conservation Service office in each state or county is responsible for determining the allowable cover crops on prevent plant acres.
  • Will corn will be allowed as a potential cover crop on the prevent plant acres? Based on past history with prevented planted acres, early maturing corn will probably not be allowed as an acceptable cover crop in most areas. However, there could be some individual states or counties that allow it with restrictions. Producers need to check with their crop insurance agent or local NRCS office regarding the potential for corn to be harvested as forage on prevent plant acres. Even if corn is allowed as a cover crop, there may be more viable short-season forage options as far as forage quality when planting a forage crop in late June or early July.
  • 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 changes for harvesting forage from cover crops on prevented planted acres. Farmers should check with their crop insurance agent before making this assumption to make sure that it is acceptable. If selling the forage is not permitted, a farmer could be required to forfeit their entire crop insurance prevent plant indemnity payments.

 

This move should be a big plus for dairy and beef producers. It should also be a benefit for soil stewardship due to better timing and management of cover crops on the prevented planted acres. However, it is important for farmers to check with their crop insurance agent, NRCS office and other appropriate professionals before finalizing their cover crop decisions. 

For additional information email Kent Thiesse, Farm Management Analyst and Senior Vice President, MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal at kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com.  
 
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