A recent survey by the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) found that an added 10.5 million acres of cover crops will be planted in the next five years as a result of USDA’s Partnerships for Climate Smart-Commodities projects. The program, announced in February of 2022, was established to support conservation practices, particularly for small and underserved producers. ASTA’s survey focused on cover crop acres through the lifespan of the projects, using numbers provided by the respective projects leads.

Cover crops provide a myriad of benefits – both economic and environmental – and are primarily used to slow erosion, improve soil health, help control pests and diseases, and offer many other benefits to producers. While helping farmers care for their land in between planting seasons, cover crops also enhance carbon sequestration and sustainability. The seed industry plays a critical role in supporting conservation programs by developing diverse, locally, and broadly adapted, high-quality seed.

“Cover crops are another example of the seed industry providing solutions for the modern producer. From farms big to small, cover crops provide economic and environmental benefits to farmers, while empowering them to be stewards of the land through its sustainable practice,” says Andy LaVigne, ASTA President & CEO. “ASTA continues to explore new methods, both private and public, to connect producers with quality cover crop seeds. We encourage farmers and producers of all sizes to use our Environment, Conservation and Cover Crop Seed Dealer Map to find a trusted cover crop source that will help them maximize their yield and care for their soil through the next planting season and beyond. We remain engaged with our partners at USDA to find ways for industry and government to collaborate on more ways to support American farmers.”

Conducted in the fourth quarter of 2023, Partnerships for Climate Smart Commodities participants were surveyed, focusing on those using the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Practice Standard (CPS) #340 for cover crops.

Survey engagement resulted in 31 completed surveys, with more than half (18) providing acreage estimates. Surveyed projects typically cover more than one state, and there is project participation across all 50 states. The highest concentration of projects is in the Midwest, with Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, and Kansas at the top of the list.

The 18 projects that shared acreage estimates resulted in an additional 10.5 million acres of cover crops throughout their three- or five-year duration. Because not every project provided acreage estimates, this is a conservative number that is likely to be significantly higher at the end of all projects using CPS340, showing not only the benefits of, but also growing interest in cover crops.

Of the 123 projects surveyed, CPS340 cover crop practice is planned to be implemented in 88 projects, across 82 commodities. Total federal funding for these projects is $2.39 billion.

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