There are many reasons that cover crops are planted in Ohio such as additional forage, nutrient recycling, soil erosion control, and improving soil tilth. In recent years the number of acres seeded to cover crops in Ohio has been increasing with the introduction of various legumes and barassica (oil seed radish, turnips, etc.) crops. With this renewed interest in cover crops, care needs to be taken not to inadvertently terminate crop insurance coverage.
According to the Risk Management Agency (RMA) cover crops are considered a crop generally recognized by agricultural experts as agronomically sound for the area for erosion control or other purposes related to conservation or soil improvement. Depending on the stage of crop development, cover crops may make the intended insurable crop ineligible for crop insurance. Understanding the subtle interpretations of the RMA rules becomes important to securing crop insurance coverage. This issue will be demonstrated through the following examples.
RMA rules do not permit crop insurance coverage for small grain crops planted for harvest that are inter-planted with another crop. This inter-planting rule specifically prohibits use of a grain drill or other tillage-based planting of the cover crop seed. Therefore, the only method available to establish a cover crop seeding in standing wheat, such as red clover, is through broadcasting the seed over the top of the wheat. Once the wheat is harvested, mechanical seeding is acceptable.
For most crops, crop insurance policies state that any acreage following another crop that has reached the head (or bud) stage and/or that has been harvested in the same calendar year is not insurable. So cover crops seeded following wheat, soybeans or corn would not be insurable. What about seeding wheat, soybeans or corn after a cover crop? The goal would be to make sure the cover crop does not reach the head or bud stage of growth development. Under this provision, farmers would need to destroy, either mechanically or chemically, the cover crop prior to the head or bud forming for the following crop to be insurable. However, if the cover crop were harvested for forage instead of being destroyed, the following crop may or may not be insurable, depending on the insurance product purchased.
After harvesting a cover crop for forage farmers cannot plant and insure crops such as corn and soybeans with Yield Protection and Revenue Protection policies. However, farmers can use GRP and GRIP policies to insure these crops after harvesting cover crops. This article is not intended to answer all the questions concerning cover crops and crop insurance, but simply to increase farmer’s awareness of the potential issues. Farmers who want to plant cover crops to gain the benefits they provide, should check with their crop insurance provider prior to planting cover crops to make sure their farming practices do not result in a loss of insurance coverage due to a misunderstanding of the rules.