The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) today announced a new pilot program that enables farmers in the Prairie Pothole region to receive payments for planting cover crops on their land for three to five years. The new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP) pilot is available to producers in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. The signup for this pilot starts March 30, 2020 and ends August 21.
“The number of acres that can be enrolled in the program are limited, and participation will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Interested landowners should act now by contacting their FSA county office for an appointment to apply,” said FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce.
Through SHIPP, producers have the option of three-, four- or five-year CRP contracts to establish cover crops on less productive cropland in exchange for payments. This pilot enables producers to plant cover crops that, among other benefits, will improve soil health and water quality while having the option to harvest, hay and graze during certain times of the year. Up to 50,000 acres can be enrolled.
Cover crops, whether used in a single crop rotation or over multiple years, can improve the productivity of soils and soil health on a farm for generations and increase the bottom line for the farmer. Soil health, or soil quality, by definition, is the capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals and humans.
The SHIPP pilot is the latest option in a full suite of opportunities available to producers through CRP and other conservation programs offered by USDA. Farmers and ranchers are encouraged to talk to their FSA county office soon about whether this pilot fits their operation or consider another longer-term option such as the CRP General signup that ends February 28 or CRP Continuous signup that is ongoing.