From 2005 to 2013, USDA funding for cover crops increased ten-fold — from about $5 million to more than $50 million.
Adopting no-till and planting cover crops are the two most common agricultural practices that can improve soil health. Farmers receiving payments from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for no-till agree to plant crops without using any sort of plow to turn residue from the prior crop into the soil.
Those receiving payments for cover crops plant certain crops (such as clover, field peas, and annual ryegrass) or a mixture of crops to maintain cover and add organic matter. Cover crops are usually grown over the winter, between plantings of commodity crops.
While cover crop funding has increased, financing for no-till adoption has declined. This shift in focus can be attributed to a variety of factors, such as increasing adoption of no-till by farmers even without payment as well as improving availability of cover crop seeds and educational materials.
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