How to manage prevented planting acres in 2019

Cover crop mixes like this one can help growers protect soil, control weeds and manage nutrients on prevented planting acres—but only if done right. The mix above includes radishes, turnips, barley, rapeseed and sunflower.

USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) on June 20 announced it changed the haying and grazing restrictions on prevented-planting acres. The change allows farmers who plant cover crops on prevented-planting acres to hay, graze or chop those fields on Sept. 1, rather than the traditional restriction date of Nov. 1.

Haying or grazing on or after Sept. 1 will not affect a farmer’s eligibility for the full 2019 prevented-planting indemnity, RMA stated.

“We recognize farmers were greatly impacted by some of the unprecedented flooding and excessive rain this spring, and we made this one-year adjustment to help farmers with the tough decisions they are facing this year,” said Bill Northey, USDA’s undersecretary for farm production and conservation. “This change will make good stewardship of the land easier to accomplish while also providing an opportunity to ensure quality forage is available for livestock this fall.”

RMA reiterated that the agency was just making this change for 2019 and would announce any possible permanent adjustments later.

USDA has tried to encourage farmers to plant cover crops on prevented-planting acres. On June 10, USDA released a question-and-answer on trade aid and disaster aid. A farmer who plants a cover crop on prevented-planting acres will be eligible for a Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payment on those acres, but land left bare on a prevented-planting claim would not be eligible for an MFP payment.

Several lawmakers from both parties pushed for the change, as did state Farm Bureau and cattle organizations in upper Midwest states. They had argued Nov. 1 is too late in the year to get quality hay or pasture out of those cover-cropped fields.

Cover-crop seed right now is in high demand and in short supply because of the high volume of acres that moved into prevented planting this spring.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) posted a video on Twitter saying he got a call early June 20 that USDA was making this commonsense move.

“You don’t have to talk to more than two producers in South Dakota to realize that waiting until Nov. 1 to allow them to either graze or mechanically harvest cover crops without an indemnity reduction on their prevent-plant acres is far too late, particularly with South Dakota’s uncertain fall and winter weather,” Thune said. “It’s arbitrary and it sets an inequitable standard that puts some states at a greater advantage than others based simply on their geographical location.”

Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN) had introduced legislation last week with Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) that would have created an emergency waiver and had 27 cosponsors. “I’m glad to see the administration announce this critical decision that will give farmers and ranchers the flexibility they need during this wet planting season,” Craig said. “Minnesota farmers and ranchers deserve security in their feed supply, and I am grateful that the USDA has taken this step to ensure they have the relief they need.” — Chris Clayton, DTN

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