Thune Introduces Legislation to Provide Flexibility for Harvesting and Grazing Cover Crops on Prevented Plant Acres |

Thune Introduces Legislation to Provide Flexibility for Harvesting and Grazing Cover Crops on Prevented Plant Acres

Senator John Thune, a longtime member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, recently introduced legislation to permanently remove the prohibition on harvesting or grazing cover crops on prevented plant acres prior to November 1. This legislation was inspired by Thune’s 2019 effort that led the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make a one-time administrative change that allowed for penalty-free haying and grazing, which significantly benefited states like South Dakota. The bill would provide a permanent solution to this issue and create greater certainty for U.S. producers.

More information on Thune’s Cover Crop Flexibility Act of 2020 here.

Here’s what they’re saying about Thune’s new bill:

“Cover crops are a critical tool in the soil health toolbox, but they are also an important source of feed and grazing opportunities for cattlemen,” said Eric Jennings, president of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association. “We appreciate Senator Thune’s efforts to remove the disincentive for planting cover crops to ensure flexibility for farmers to do what they do best and grow adequate forage for livestock producers.”

“We appreciate what the Cover Crop Flexibility Act will do for farmers and ranchers at a time when they are already stressed because of factors beyond their control,” said James Halverson, executive director of South Dakota Stockgrowers Association. “Allowing producers to utilize their prevent plant crops for grazing and haying without restrictions to a nation-wide arbitrary date regardless of geographic location is a big step forward. Conditions change rapidly through time and space, and producers must be able to make on-the-ground management decisions quickly while not being required to wait for approval from the USDA. Additionally, encouraging producers, as well as the USDA, to explore options within the emerging use of cover crops can only benefit producers and their operations. We applaud these efforts.”

“South Dakota led the nation in prevented planting acres in 2019 which accentuated the need to recognize regional differences in farming practices,” said Scott VanderWal, president of the South Dakota Farm Bureau. “Changes in the prevented planting cover crop harvest date and allowing chopping practices are high priorities for South Dakota producers.”

“The SD Soil Health Coalition supports efforts to promote the adoption of management practices that will improve soil health,” said Levi Neuharth, chairman of the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition. “The opportunity provided from this legislation to create additional flexibility for farmers to use cover crops for that purpose is welcome.”

“The Cover Crop Flexibility Act will allow producers facing the challenges of prevent plant to protect the soil from wind and water erosion while building soil health and helps to ensure that there will be affordable and sustainable opportunities for feeding livestock,” said Jamie Johnson, secretary of the South Dakota Soybean Association.

“This bill would be a big win for farmers and also for conservation. By allowing grazing or harvesting, cover crops would become a more viable choice for farmers with prevented-plant acres,” said Doug Noem, president of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association. “Another barrier that farmers face is the high cost of cover crop seed, and this would address that concern by allowing those costs to be included in prevented-planting indemnity calculations. Those two changes would open the door to more cover crop plantings, in turn benefitting soil health reducing erosion and helping the environment.”

“We are very pleased of the leadership Senator Thune demonstrated with this attempt to get ahead of, and create permanent flexibility in the cover crop and prevent plant programs for farmers,” said Marv Post, board chair of South Dakota Dairy Producers. “The limitations on harvesting dates and recognition that a long term solution is a win for South Dakota dairy farmers.”

–Senator Thune