The Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) released its first legislative letter addressed to the house and senate ag committee chairs in partnership with the Southern Cover Crops Council, Northeast Cover Crops Council, Western Cover Crops Council, South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, and the North Central Regional Association of State Agricultural Experiment Station Directors (NCRA).The letter outlines the benefits of cover crops such as reducing erosion, boosting soil health, improving soil’s structure, cycling nutrients efficiently, improving water holding capacity, and feeding critical belowground microbes, earthworms, and fungi."Cover crops are a conservation practice with diverse benefits that need broad adoption across the region to have significant impact. Both financial and technical support will improve regional cover crop adoption, while collecting data will allow long-term success of conservation programs," the letter reads. "The MCCC considers cover crops to be a key practice for improving soil health and climate resilience on farms. We need to maintain our soils to feed a hungry world, and cover crops can help farmers achieve this goal by reducing erosion, boosting soil health, improving soil’s structure, cycling nutrients efficiently, improving water holding capacity, and feeding critical belowground microbes, earthworms, and fungi. Cover crops are not a one-size fits all management tool, but they are an extremely versatile practice that work well in various cropping systems, with a host of benefits to farmers and the environment."The letter then includes specific examples, citing that increased organic matter and improved soil structure from cover crops helps the soil to retain more water; a six-year study in Iowa showed that cover crops increased water available to plants by 21%.
Also outlined in the letter, the group lists suggestions for potential data collection and the ways that farmers could benefit from such practices.
"Not only do federal cover crop programs have the potential to encourage adoption through voluntary financial incentives. If set up correctly, they can create valuable datasets, providing the information farmers need to make informed cover cropping decisions. Often these programs seek to understand how cover crops might influence management, crop insurance programs, and farm profitability. At a national level it is essential that current or future programs collect the data necessary for agronomists and scientists to answer these essential questions. Regarding cover crop programs, MCCC recommends that agencies collect data concerning:"
The MCCC encourages federal support of cover crop programs and technical assistance to support farmers in voluntary cover crop practices. Data from these programs is valuable and should be collected anonymously to better understand practices and best management.The letter sends a unified message from all four regional cover crop councils on the importance of cover crops, their environmental benefits, and continued federal support.
- Cover crop species (monoculture or mixture)
- Cover crop planting method, date, and seeding rate
- Cover crop termination method and termination date
- Cash crop species immediately following the cover crop, planting method, and planting date
- Prevented planting, weather-related losses, and yields of cash crops following a cover crop
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