American Farmland Trust is celebrating the success of the Illinois Cover Crop Premium Discount Program, otherwise known as Fall Covers for Spring Savings (FCSS). The FCSS 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 business days of its 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.
Illinois is the second state in the nation to offer its farmers a crop insurance discount for cover crops, preceded by Iowa.
The Illinois Legislature approved a new line item in the Illinois Department of Agriculture 2020 budget for $300,000 to fund the crop insurance premium discount program for cover crops. Funding is distributed on a first come, first serve basis.
Taking advantage of FCSS were 212 farmers, planting 50,000 acres under the program. An additional 50,000 acres were already planted by the 212 applicants, and these acres were not eligible for this program because they were already receiving some incentives.
Cover crops are one of the main in-field management practices listed in the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy as having the potential to reduce nutrient losses from non-point agriculture sources by at least 30 percent. Fifty-seven of the 102 counties in Illinois have approved applicants for the FCSS– which makes this program evenly distributed across the state.
Cover crops can also improve the resiliency of Illinois farm operations by improving the soil’s ability to absorb and hold water for crops.
Andrew Reuschel, who was enrolled in the program says, “We have done cover crops without EQIP or CSP, and it has been out of our pockets. I was excited about this program because there was an opportunity to receive a crop insurance discount on 100 percent of my cropland acres that are completely planted in cover crops. I went into my local NRCS office and the SWCD staff was able to help me apply for the FCSS program.”
AFT worked the past two years with IDoA 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.
American Farmland Trust remains committed to meeting the goals of the IL NLRS and continuing to support farmers in opportunities to try a practice that is proven to improve the health of the soil.