5 New Crop Insurance Strategies Improve Soil Health

Representative Sean Casten (D-IL) and Representative Cindy Axne (D-IA) introduced legislation that could dramatically change the health care system around the world, and it’s time for Bill writers to take notice. The COVER Act provides farmers who plant cover crops — a soil conservation practice that has climate, water, and biodiversity benefits — to save $5 per acre on crop insurance credits. USDA issued a similar incentives for the past two years in the popular program that registered more than 12 million acres in 48 countries. Now, the COVER Act will make this opportunity even longer. The success of this bill is that it uses an existing program, crop insurance, to provide financial incentives to farmers and rebuild soil health. Here are five reasons why the COVER Act is changing soil health and should be included in the next Farm Bill.

1. Crop Insurance Incentives Encourage New Farmers to Try Cover Crops

A 2013 farmer survey The USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program asked 242 farmers who don’t use cover crops about crop insurance incentives, and 70% of them said that food insurance discounts could lead them to use cover crops. Many growers who follow this practice testify that cover crops are worth every penny as well usually save money for a long time by reducing the cost of purchasing other products (oil, herbicides and pesticides, fertilizers). But, due to many reasons including the time and cost of learning to set up, larger crops are planted on average 4% of the yield per acre, according to 2017 Census of Agriculture data. This program would be a cost-effective way to reduce the gap and convert new users into cover crop experts while helping to meet national and international goals for increasing the adoption of wild crops.

2. Cover Crops Promote Climate Resilience, Biodiversity, and Water Quality

Experts say that in the soil health toolbox, the cover crops are like a Swiss-Army knife. They are multifunctional; It prevents erosion, reduces water pollution, feeds soil microbes, improves soil nutrient utilization, improves soil fertility and water use, and increases soil oxygen. Similarly, Improving soil health through practices such as cover crops is a multifaceted approach to addressing climate change, environmental degradation, and water quality..

3. Risk Management and Soil Health Go Together

Healthy soil is a tool to be tested from time to time. When the soil is healthy, it can retain more water during droughts and reduce the need for irrigation, filter water better during heavy rains and reduce losses due to late or delayed planting, and help crops cope with extreme heat. reduce the temperature of the soil, help the roots to grow and take water and nutrients during the heat. In short, healthy soil makes farms and ranches more resilient to climate change. It follows that risk management and soil health should go hand in hand in agricultural policy but historically, this has not been the case, and farmers have suffered when the policy has been too expensive. Insurance premiums for drought and floods have tripled in the past 25 yearsto a report of the Environmental Working Group. In order to ensure that crop insurance remains a strong part of agricultural security, it is important that the program utilizes all risk management tools – including soil health – to help farmers overcome challenges and reduce the cost of the program to taxpayers.

4. Cover Crop Insurance Promotion Programs Have Bi-partisan Support

The COVER Act builds on state and national programs that had strong bipartisan support. First thing Iowa Cover Crop Demonstration Pilot it was the strategy of Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture at the time, Bill Northey, a Republican. The Illinois Fall Cover for Spring Storage The program has received support from both sides of the aisle, and Wisconsin’s latest bill authorizing the program passed Republican-led approval and was later signed by Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat. Finally, the USDA of the Biden Administration implemented Pandemic Cover Crop Program in 2021. The COVER Act would provide long-term, statewide support for the program and has already been supported by Democrats and Republicans, environmental organizations, sustainable agriculture groups, and trade unions. With so few things that people seem to agree on these days, it’s good to celebrate the ideas and laws that have the potential to create this kind of support.

5. The PACHIKUTA Act Provides a Soil Health Test Method for Certain Activities

Context is a key principle of sustainable agriculture. Not all farms are the same, and practices vary depending on the soil and what the farmer wants to grow. The fund has provisions that can provide more options for producers who use different methods of improving soil health in their risk management process – composting, for example. Composting adds oxygen and other nutrients to the soil, while avoiding GHG emissions from food waste that would otherwise be sent to landfill. We like this provision in the bill because it opens up opportunities to include more producers in the program, who prioritize soil health as part of their risk management strategies.

NRDC will support the COVER Act, and we will be working hard to ensure that lawmakers are aware of the many benefits of including crop insurance for soil health in the next Farm Bill.