By Marcia Bunger, Administrator, USDA RMA

USDA is focused on promoting ecofriendly farming that improves the profitability of producers.  One such practice is planting cover crops in the fall, such as cereal rye to improve soil health.

Farmers who plant cover crops and have coverage under most crop insurance policies are eligible for a premium benefit from USDA called the Pandemic Cover Crop Program, (PCCP).  All cover crops reportable to the Farm Service Agency (FSA) are eligible. The premium support is $5 per acre, but no more than the full premium amount owed. Last year producers received $59.5 million in PCCP premium subsidies. 

Jeff O’Connor is a sixth-generation farmer in Illinois who benefits from PCCP. 

Much of Jeff’s farm is well drained, but he points out wet areas that benefit from the practice of cover crops. 

“Once I started using cover crops ten years ago, I found those areas developed stronger soils and dried out quicker,” Jeff explains.  “I can now do field work much sooner.”

BIOLOGICAL BOOST. Farmer Jeff O’Connor holds up a clump of soil, displaying roots of cereal rye, a cover crop used on his farm in Irwin, Illinois.

In his first year using cover crops, Jeff planted corn in two different fields. After harvest, one field was planted to cereal rye and the other wasn't. 

“I took water samples from both fields for six weeks for nitrate testing,” he says.  “The field with cereal rye had a 60% reduction in nitrate.”

Jeff hopes PCCP promotes the continued growth of cover crop practices.

“PCCP provides savings in an area, crop insurance, where the cover crop practice actually does reduce risk to the producer and USDA,” he explains. “This relationship can, and should, be the backbone for increased cover crop support.”

Time is running out for farmers to secure their PCCP benefit for 2022.  Producers must file a Report of Acreage form (FSA-578) for cover crops with USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) by March 15, 2022. To file the form, producers must make an appointment with their local USDA Service Center. To find out quickly if the program may be able to help your operation, try our new PCCP Eligibility Quiz

Marcia Bunger is the Administrator of USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA).  Prior to her appointment, she served as a County Executive Director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency.  Bunger is also the owner and operator of a 2000-acre farm, a cum laude graduate of Augustana College, and the first member of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and first woman to serve as RMA Administrator.