A bipartisan bill that would allow farmers and ranchers to use cover crops during natural disasters to feed their livestock has been reintroduced into Congress. U.S. Reps. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) and Angie Craig (D-MN) and Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) reintroduced the bipartisan Feed Emergency Enhancement During Disasters with Cover Crops Act (FEEDD Act).
The FEEDD Act will provide farmers and ranchers emergency flexibility to help alleviate livestock feed shortages during planting seasons with high levels of prevent plant due to extreme moisture or drought. U.S. Department of Agriculture provided an administrative fix to the haying and grazing dates in 2019 and 2020 after urging from Congress.
Currently, under the Federal Crop Insurance Program, producers that are unable to plant a crop due to adverse weather conditions are eligible to receive a small indemnity but are prohibited from growing a cash commodity due to a missed window in the growing season. The FEEDD Act would create a clear emergency waiver authority for the USDA to allow producers to graze, hay or chop a cover crop before November 1st in the event of a feed shortage due to excessive moisture, flood, or drought. With this waiver, producers would not have to take a further discount on their crop insurance. The bill also directs the Secretary to establish regional “harvest dates” for each crop year for predictable rules on prevent plant cover crop harvest annually.
“A one-sized-fits-all approach doesn’t always work, and the cover crop harvest date is a good example where this approach falls short,” said Johnson. “I’m grateful USDA provided an administrative fix to the prevent plant harvest date deadline in 2019 after unprecedented flooding in states like South Dakota, but this date flexibility needs to be permanent and regionally tailored. The government can’t control the weather, but we can enhance predictability for producers when disasters hit.”
“Especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, Congress has a responsibility to provide farmers and ranchers the flexibility they need to do their jobs successfully,” said Craig. “The FEEDD Act will help to support ag producers in Minnesota at no cost to the taxpayer — while incentivizing the planting of cover crops to protect the health and quality of farmers’ soil in Minnesota. I’m proud to help lead this bipartisan, commonsense effort and look forward to its passage in the House.”
“Cover crops are an important tool that enable farmers to better maintain their land and provide an important source of feed for livestock,” said Hoeven. “It makes sense to provide adequate flexibility in USDA’s rules for cover crops to address disasters, differences in regional climates and local feed shortages. That’s exactly what our bill will provide, while preserving crop insurance program integrity and preventing penalties for farmers.”
“In Wisconsin, when farmers lose a crop to flooding, drought, or other extreme weathers events, they are left with tough choices about how to make up for crop losses and protect their soil from erosion,” said Baldwin. “This bipartisan legislation will give farmers more certainty about their feed options in disaster years. By reducing uncertainty for farmers, we’re working to ease one of the headaches they face when deciding about putting in cover crops, which will benefit soil health on the farm and water quality in our communities.”