Cover Crops

Cover Crops

For insurance purposes, a cover crop is a crop generally recognized by agricultural experts as agronomically sound for the area for erosion control or other purposes related to conservation or soil improvement.

Can I insure a crop following a cover crop?
Yes, you may if you meet certain conditions for terminating the cover crop. You must terminate the cover crop before the deadline listed in the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Cover Crop Termination Guidelines for Non-Irrigated Cropland. If you do not terminate the cover crop your commercial crop may be considered double cropped. If the double cropping practice is not available in your county, your commercial crop may not be insurable.

RMA is revising its procedures for cover crops and the deadline for terminating cover crops. The deadlines are located in NRCS’ Cover Crop Termination Guidelines for Non-Irrigated Cropland. These guidelines also include allowances for weather conditions, local climate, and topography, as well as advances in cover crop technology. More guidance for cover crops can be found in RMA’s Special Provisions of Insurance for Cover Crops. We expect these new procedures to be in place starting in the fall of 2013 for the 2014 crop year.

Termination of cover crops that are used in an irrigated cropping system are not restricted to a given cover crop termination zone. The cover crop should be terminated based on the crop system and conservation, but before the planted crop emerges.

Why should I plant a cover crop?
USDA has developed the best and most comprehensive guidance possible for cover crops. RMA, NRCS, and Farm Service Agency (FSA) cover crop experts were involved in an interagency cover crop workgroup to develop cover crop management guidelines across the U.S. NRCS has used information from the workgroup, technical literature available, and experts’ knowledge of national and local cover crop systems to develop cover crop management guidelines.

If you plant cover crops you may improve:

  1. Soil quality
  2. Nutrient cycling
  3. Nitrogen production,
  4. Erosion control,
  5. Weed management, and
  6. Soil water availability

Federal crop insurance policies now use the NRCS guidelines for cover crop farming practices.

How do I find the deadlines for terminating my cover crop?
The timing of cover crop termination is critical in areas where poor timing of termination uses soil water that is vital for commercial crop growth and yield. However, the specific date and stage of growth requirements that were in RMA procedures led to some acreage losing coverage in years where weather may have blocked your effort to either terminate or harvest the cover crop in time to qualify for insurance coverage. RMA termination requirements also may not have allowed you to gain the full conservation benefits of the cover crop practice you were using.

Recognizing the advances and added benefits of cover crop practices, and trying to provide more flexibility in the face of changing conditions, RMA revised its cover crop procedures by employing new guidelines. Now, you will determine the recommended termination time for a cover crop by using the NRCS Cover Crop Termination Guidelines for Non-Irrigated Cropland on the NRCS web site at www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/ national/landuse/crops/?cid=stelprdb1077238. You can also find more information about cover crops and commercial crop insurability in your county Special Provisions at webapp.rma.usda.gov/apps/ actuarialinformationbrowser/. Once you reach the site, click on the drop down menus in order to choose

This document gives only a general overview of the crop insurance program and is not a complete policy. For further information and an evaluation of your risk management needs please contact us today.