Fall Covers for Spring Savings Program is a Success

Author Kris Reynolds stands in his field planted with a cereal rye cover crop.

Fall Covers for Spring Savings Program is a Success

It is now February and it has officially been nearly two months since the launch of the IDOA Fall Covers for Spring Savings Program. The Illinois Legislature approved a new line item this fiscal year in the Illinois Department of Agriculture budget for $300,000 to fund a crop insurance premium discount program for cover crops.

AFT worked the past two years with Illinois Department of Agriculture agency staff and nearly 20 individuals from agricultural, environmental, and conservation organizations to develop a crop insurance premium discount program for cover crops in Illinois and get funding included in the 2020 budget. When the funding was approved for this program—I was speechless. I knew that this program was working in states like Iowa (with a similar program), and I wanted so badly for something similar to be available for our farmers here in Illinois. This is the second state in the nation to offer its farmers a crop insurance discount for cover crops!

I have been farming on my land in Illinois for 20 years and using conservation practices such as cover crops for the past seven of those years. I know first-hand what types of benefits it has on my soil and for my crops, and I wanted others around me to have an opportunity to test it out and see what it could do for them.

Kris Working in His Fields

Cover crops can improve the resiliency of Illinois farm operations by improving the soil’s ability to absorb and hold water for crops. In other words, when managed well, cover crops can reduce the risk of yield being impacted by bad weather. The crop insurance premium discount program is designed to promote the planting of additional acres of cover crops that are not already covered by other state or federal incentives.

Within the first seven days of this program’s launch on Dec. 4, 2019, the 50,000 acres cap was reached. By the deadline of Jan. 15, 2020, —there were over 136,000 acres submitted. Over 200 operators will be integrating cover crops on their land because of this program—and over 70% of them are first-time cover crop users. This is so huge! Knowing that most operators who signed up are first-time cover crops users gives us encouragement for promoting further funding for next year’s Illinois Department of Agriculture fiscal budget—which I am going to continue to fight for!

I live and breathe my work—and I hope that through my work I can help educate and provide assistance to our Illinois and Midwest farmers. This past year was really successful in many ways, but there always continues to be more ways in which we can improve. Thank you to all our supporters and to our hard-working farmers and ranchers. May this year of 2020 be the best one yet!

Kristopher Reynolds, AFT MIDWEST DEPUTY DIRECTOR | kreynolds@farmland.org

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