American Farmland Trust Applauds USDA Announcement of Pandemic Cover Crop Program
Oklahoma Farm Report
02 Jun 2021
Today, American Farmland Trust shares its support for the USDA Pandemic Cover Crop Program, calling out its immediate importance as stated by the USDA Risk Management Agency in yesterday’s press release, “farmers maintain their cover crop systems, despite the financial challenges posed by the pandemic.” AFT believes that this new program will not only help farmers to recover from the impacts of the pandemic but will also help them to “build back better.” Broader cover crop adoption will be a key step toward harnessing agriculture to help solve the climate crisis, while improving soil health, farm productivity, food system resiliency and farmers’ bottom lines.
Despite their proven benefits, as of the 2017 Census of Agriculture, cover crops had only been adopted on less than 5 percent of the 260 million acres of row crops, implying a large future opportunity. While the rate of adoption is accelerating, increasing 50 percent between 2012 and 2017, this gain is still not fast enough to adequately address our nation’s climate and environmental challenges. Cover crops are a proven, low-cost natural climate solution, capable of sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) into
soils. In addition to the climate benefits, cover crops can also stabilize – or even increase – cash crop yields over time by improving soil health, limiting erosion and nutrient loss, controlling weeds and maintaining soil moisture. Cover crops can also reduce the impacts of extreme weather on production, with farmers reporting yield increases in drought years, and earlier planting dates in wet years. AFT’s November 2020 transition recommendation for “Developing a USDA Cover Crop Initiative” shares relevant research and data supporting the multitude of benefits.
“Securing widespread cover crop adoption will require a surge of federal support, technical assistance and agency coordination,” said Tim Fink, AFT Policy Director...