Farmers across Minnesota now have access to detailed financial information about the profitability of cover crops through FINBIN, the largest publicly available farm financial database in the country. The change is a result of a collaboration between The University of Minnesota’s Center for Farm Financial Management, Minnesota State Farm Business Management, Southwest Minnesota Farm Business Management Association, Minnesota Office for Soil Health and Environmental Defense Fund.

Minnesota State FBM included initial findings from 17 farms growing cover crops in its annual report, Influence of intensified environmental practices on farm profitability, which was released in April and draws from the database. The preliminary data shows the seed cost, input costs and other expenses producers incurred growing a winter cover crop.

Over the coming years, the cover crop dataset will grow to include more than 85 farms across Minnesota and will enable farmers, farmer business partners and state policymakers to glean new insights about how cover crops impact yields and profitability.

“We’re excited to answer farmers’ economic questions about cover crops,” said Vincent Gauthier, senior analyst, Climate-Smart Agriculture at EDF. “This new and growing dataset will allow us to compare yields, expenses and profits between farms that grow cover crops and those that don’t.”

The information collected in the 2021 pilot year allowed farmers and FBM instructors to test out the new data collection process. The preliminary data showed that farmers spent $26 per acre on cover crop seed planted before corn and $20 per acre on cover crop seed planted before soybeans.

“Farmers need detailed financial information when considering the adoption of a new management practice, and cover crops are no different,” said Keith Olander, executive director of AgCentric and FBM. “The new enterprise data on cover crops will help farmers make informed financial decisions.”

The cover crop financial dataset will enhance a robust set of financial benchmarking data for environmental practices in the FINBIN database, which already includes comparisons of tillage practices and financial analysis of farms participating in the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Water Quality Certification Program.

“This new financial data on cover crops will provide critical detail for Minnesota farms to improve the profitability of implementing the practice,” said Brad Jordahl Redlin, Water Quality Certification Program manager at Minnesota Department of Agriculture. “Now in its third year, the overall report has already established that the environmental cohort of farms — those certified in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program — has every year shown higher net income profit than the non-certified cohort.”