USDA’s Risk Management Agency will permit growers who plant cover crops on prevented planting acres to access that forage two months earlier than previously allowed.

In an announcement today, RMA confirmed Agri-Pulse’s previous report that haying and grazing on those acres will be allowed on Sept. 1, not Nov. 1 as was previously established. The agency cited unforeseen weather challenges in granting what USDA was clear to note is a one-year change.

“We recognize farmers were greatly impacted by some of the unprecedented flooding and excessive rain this spring, and we made this one-year adjustment to help farmers with the tough decisions they are facing this year,” said Bill Northey, USDA’s undersecretary for farm production and conservation. 

The move comes after bipartisan calls from Capitol Hill and a push from farm groups to extend the relief. Midwest lawmakers said producers needed the extra feed the cover crops would provide after taking big reductions to their planted acres for other crops. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and a handful of other senators asked USDA to move the date just last week.

In a statement, Thune said the previous Nov. 1 date is “arbitrary, and it sets an inequitable standard that puts some states at a greater advantage than others based simply on their geographical location.”

House Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said “the changes announced today by USDA will go a long way toward providing farmers and livestock producers with options to address the forage situation in many parts of the country.”

House Ag Committee freshman Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., and Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., have introduced a bill that would codify USDA's ability to make this change. Earlier this week, Craig told Agri-Pulse that they planned to pursue the legislation even if USDA were to make the change administratively.

USDA also announced a few other changes: RMA will also allow chopping for silage, haylage, and baleage under prevented planting provisions; USDA’s Farm Service Agency is extending prevented planting reporting deadlines; and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is holding a special Environmental Quality Incentives Program signup to give cost-share assistance for planting cover crops “on impacted lands.”

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