A bipartisan group of 12 senators and 12 representatives signed a letter on Friday calling on the Department of Agriculture to move up the deadline for allowing producers to graze or harvest cover crops on prevented plant acres.

Led by Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Reps. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., and Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, the letter encouraged USDA to move the Nov. 1 deadline up to Sept. 1 and eliminate any penalties for grazing, haying, or chopping cover crops outside of the “primary nesting season.” USDA made this change last year after excessive rainfall and spring flooding prevented the planting of 19 million acres. 

“While we do not expect nearly as many prevented plant acres as last year, we request that you again provide relief for producers by eliminating the penalties for grazing, haying, or chopping cover crops approved by USDA as long as the activities are outside of the primary nesting season,” the letter states. “This would help ensure that producers have adequate sources of feed for the backlog of livestock due to the meat processing capacity shortfalls because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It would also encourage the adoption of cover crops, which improve soil health, suppress weeds, and reduce erosion.”

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