Three Iowa ag partners are celebrating a successful first year of Farmers for Soil Health (FSH), a national cover crop incentive program funded through a USDA Climate Smart grant.

Iowa, a top producer of corn and soybeans, recorded nearly 27,000 acres of cover crops in the first year of the program. That’s out of about 80,800 acres nationwide. Nearly 100 Iowa farmers were enrolled. Both the numbers of Iowa acres and farmers led the nation in the first year of the FSH program.

The Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Corn Promotion Board, and the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance are leading the Farmers For Soil Health push in Iowa.

“This success in just the first year of the FSH program shows the power of collaboration, straightforward incentives, and an innovative and easy signup process,” said Greg Wandrey, Director of Sustainability at Iowa Corn.

Producers can receive up to $50/acre over three years for new cover crop acres. The enrollment period for fall 2023 and spring 2024 acres is now closed, but Iowa commodity leaders are already gearing up for year two later this year.

“Our Conservation Agronomists did an excellent job promoting the incentive, explaining how it works, and helping farmers get signed up,” said Mike Gilman, Conservation Agronomist Lead at Iowa Soybean Association. “We also learned through the first-year process and are excited about how we can help even more farmers this coming year.”

In 2022, Iowa farmers planted nearly 3.8 million acres of cover crops statewide, more than double the amount in 2017. Farmers for Soil Health is one of many projects that are incentivizing the use of cover crops in Iowa.

“Every year that we offer programs like this, we reach more farmers and and we improve for the next year,” said Rebekah Jones, Communications Director at IAWA, a nonprofit aimed at improving water quality through farmer-led efforts. “Because of that, we hope to see the pace of cover crops continue to increase.”

Along with water quality benefits, cover crops can improve soil structure, build organic matter, and reduce costs in other areas of a farming operation.

The national Farmers for Soil Health initiative is a partnership between the National Corn Growers Association, Soybean Checkoff, and Pork Checkoff. Iowa promotion is bolstered by funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

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