When properly managed, incorporating cover crops into a traditional crop rotation provides several benefits including reduction of nutrient loss, limited soil erosion, and improved water infiltration capability. Advancing the adoption of cover crops has been identified as a key strategy for Illinois agriculture to meet the goals established in the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS). Members of the Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership are working to support this goal by establishing cover crop incentive programs. American Farmland Trust and Illinois Corn Growers Association currently have opportunities for Illinois farmers to receive financial payments to support the adoption and continued incorporation of cover crops on their fields.
In partnership with ADM, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Farmers Business Network, and American Farmland Trust is taking applications for the Illinois Cover Crop Initiative (ICCI) program.
ICCI incentives will be available to an estimated 400 farmers enrolling up to 75,000 acres, including acres that have previously been planted to cover crops. Applicants have the option of 1–4-year contracts and will be required to follow NRCS standards and specifications for managing cover crops. Incentives include $10 per acre annually supported by technical assistance provided in collaboration with farmers’ trusted retail partners and conservation organizations. Acres cannot be enrolled in another privately funded ecosystem market program but may be stacked with federal and state cost-share programs.
“This program will provide farmers with technical assistance, education, and financial incentives to meet the demands of the growing interest in cover crops,” said Kris Reynolds, AFT Midwest region director. “It also offers farmers the opportunity to stack incentives with additional public programs, accelerating the adoption of cover crops in Illinois.”
As a part of the program, AFT will quantify economic and environmental benefits to be shared with farmers, ADM, NRCS, NFWF and FBN to further cover crop adoption into the future. In additional, technical assistance will be available to anyone interested in cover crops, regardless of program participation.
Contract awards will be made on a first come, first served basis until contracted acres reach 75,000. The application period will close on December 1, 2022, although applicants are encouraged to submit their application as soon as possible.
The AFT Illinois program is part of a $2.6 million grant announced on May 24th, 2022 by ADM, NRCS, NFWF and FBN to accelerate adoption of cover crops in six Midwestern states. Other recipients include Ducks Unlimited, Kansas Association of Conservation Districts, Minnesota Soil Health Coalition, and Practical Farmers of Iowa.
Information on the program and the application portal can be found on AFT’s website. For additional questions, please email AFT at email@example.com.
Illinois Corn Cover Crop Coupon and Incentive Program
Illinois Corn Growers Association’s is also offering financial incentives to farmers who are planting cover crops this fall, through their 2022 Cover Crop Coupon and Incentive Program. Illinois farmers who plant cover crops on existing cover crop acres can receive $7 per acre while farmers planting new acres of cover crops will be eligible to receive $15 per acre. In addition to the financial incentive, participation in IL Corn’s incentive program includes one year of an Illinois Corn membership.
Participation in Illinois Corn’s program does not exclude farmers from eligibility for other incentive programs, such as Fall Covers for Spring Savings, but selected fields will not be eligible to receive benefits from other ecosystem market programs for the 2023 crop season.
This program is open to all Illinois farmers, regardless of membership with IL Corn Growers or participation in Precision Conservation Management.