Rep. Axne introduces bill to expand crop aid coverage for farmers

Today, Representative Cindy Axne (IA-03) and Rep. Sean Casten (IL-06) introduced the Conservation Opportunity and Voluntary Environment Resilience Program (COVER) Actwhich will provide an insurance premium of $5 per acre to farmers planting ground covers to encourage this important soil health practice.

Ground cover planting is an essential conservation practice that reduces production risk, prevents erosion, improves soil health and water quality, improves soil water availability, suppresses weeds, helps control pests and diseases, increases biodiversity, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon. In addition to the benefits for the ecosystem, ground covers also provide economic benefits for individual farmers; planting cover crops can lead to savings on inputs such as fertilizers and herbicides and better yields over time.

“Cover crops are an effective and environmentally sound way to enrich the soil for increased crop yields, and we’ve seen cover crop success here in Iowa,” said Representative Cindy Axne. “The COVER Act will make this program available nationwide so that more farmers can take advantage of cover crops and help rebuild their soil organic matter. I will continue to work with my colleagues to support common sense solutions that promote regenerative farming and help farmers to be part of the climate solution.”

“We are already seeing the climate crisis drive up the cost of the federal crop insurance program, and we know this will continue to happen as more extreme weather events become more frequent in the future,” said Representative Sean Casten. “I am pleased that my home state of Illinois has recognized the importance of ground covers with its own ground cover discount program. The COVER Act is critical to providing farmers across the country with the tools they need to make their lands more resilient in the face of climate-related risks. ”

the iIncreasing frequency of drought, rain and extreme weather due to climate change will put further strain on our soils. Climate change will make the federal crop insurance program more expensive and harder to manage without mitigation measures. We are already seeing crop insurance payments rise by more than 400% between 1995 and 2020 for drought losses and nearly 300% for rain and flood losses. Both drought and excess moisture are expected to increase in various parts of the country. in the coming decades we need to adapt our food system to be more resilient; promoting soil health is paramount to achieving this goal and farmers can play a vital role.

“The COVER Act is a groundbreaking policy that will help farmers create resilient businesses in the face of ever-increasing natural disasters. Ground covers have numerous environmental benefits, such as improved soil health, carbon sequestration and increased water infiltration. The incentives offered in this bill will give farmers more financial savings and support for their important work and environmental stewardship.” said Lara Bryant, deputy director, Water & Agriculture, NRDC.

Nicole Lederer, president and co-founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs, said:Expanding the use of ground covers in U.S. agriculture will deliver multiple economic and environmental benefits to farmers and consumers, reducing costs and pollution associated with fossil inputs and sequestering carbon pollution in the atmosphere. The COVER Act is a strategic step to recognize the risk reduction and soil health improvements associated with planting cover crops, and an important tool to safeguard the U.S. agricultural economy.”

“Cover crops have many ecological and economic benefits, such as preventing soil erosion, improving soil fertility and reducing the rate and amount of water runoff. This bill provides the incentive and technical support that producers need who want to try ground covers but aren’t sure how to get started.” said Ben Knuth, an agricultural policy specialist at the National Wildlife Federation.

“Ground cover planting remains one of the most effective and cost-efficient practices our innovative dairy farmers use to build healthy soil, prevent erosion, sequester carbon and protect water quality,” said Brody Stapel, president of Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative. “More and more of us are realizing the environmental and financial benefits of this proven preservation technique. As an incentive to maintain the practice and get other farmers on board, the insurance discount is a relatively small investment that yields large dividends.”

In particular, the COVER Act will:

  • Help producers maintain ground covers: Creates the Good Steward Cover Crop Program to provide producers with a $5 per acre premium subsidy when they enroll in a covered insurance program and for planting cover crops for conservation purposes.
    • This program is completely voluntary and does not require farmers to plant ground covers to qualify for crop insurance.
  • Authorize additional financing for technical assistance: Allocating $5 million for technical assistance, outreach and program support to help producers access the Good Steward Cover Crop program.
  • Create a Soil Health Pilot Program: Authorizes USDA to evaluate how to provide additional premium subsidies for other soil health practices that reduce risk and meet FCIP goals.

The COVER Act is endorsed by the Illinois Farm Bureau, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Danone, Unilever, Natural Resources Defense Council, American Farmland Trust, National Wildlife Federation, Green Cover Seed, Izaak Walton League of America, Iowa Farmers Union, GO Seed, E2, Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, and Farm Action Fund.

Invoice text can be found here.

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