A food processing company, government agency and a conservation non-profit are ponying up funds for cover crops, according to a press release.

Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM), the USDA’s NRCS and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced $2.6 million in grant awards to help farmers plant cover crops across Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan and Minnesota. Awarded under NFWF’s Midwest Cover Crop Initiative, five grants will support implementation of this beneficial agricultural practice on 500,000 acres.

Grants have been awarded to the nonprofit groups American Farmland Trust, Ducks Unlimited, the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts, Minnesota Soil Health Coalition and Practical Farmers of Iowa.

NFWF administers the Midwest Cover Crop Initiative to support large-scale, voluntary adoption of cover crops in corn, soybean and wheat systems across the Midwest. Cover crops minimize bare soil, improve soil productivity, store and sequester carbon, help prevent runoff and erosion, and improve wildlife habitat associated with agricultural lands.

Farmers who implement cover crop systems may see improvements in long-term profitability through reduced input costs and higher yields. By accelerating the adoption of this practice, the grants announced today will help enhance soil health, reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases, improve water resources and support wildlife while providing economic benefits to participating farmers.

The recipient organizations will provide farmers with technical assistance to help navigate the various agronomic and social factors that can impede cover crop adoption. They will work closely with farmers to plan and implement approaches for individual farmers.

The five grant recipients will also help farmers enroll in public and private programs designed to defray costs and minimize financial risk associated with practice adoption. Grant recipients will work to increase participation in established Farm Bill cost-share programs managed by NRCS, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

In addition, they will coordinate enrollment in a new private incentive program, under which ADM will commit $20 million over the next four years in support of participating farmers. By providing an opportunity to stack these new private payments with more-traditional public financial assistance, the Midwest Cover Crop Initiative increases the financial resources available to farmers and further incentivizes broad practice adoption.

Altogether, the five grant recipient organizations will develop voluntary agreements with an estimated 1,800 farmers. Analyses of environmental and economic outcomes at the farm level will help these farmers assess the benefits associated with cover crops and make informed decisions about future implementation. In addition, aggregating results across farms will help identify key findings that can be shared with the broader agricultural community. 

A complete list of the grants announced today through the Midwest Conservation Initiative is available here.

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