Opey Rowell has a pretty straightforward take on carbon programs.

“Farm the way you believe and if it fits, it fits,” says the Pekin, Ill., farmer.

About three years ago, Rowell started incorporating cover crops into strip-till, and learning how to farm around the cover crops to increase their benefit.

“I think there’s a lot of benefit to cover crops on our soils in March, April and May,” he explains, standing in his sandy Illinois river bottom fields. “So incorporating a strip-till process in the spring allows us to have a seed bed and let the cover crops go, and be able to farm around it and get more benefit from the cover crops.”

Now, Rowell adds, he’s incorporating different cover crop mixes ahead of different crops, all based on what will benefit the soil through nutrient retainment, building organic matter or just raising a better crop.

Carbon Philosophy 

He’s taking advantage of carbon programs, but sure won’t change his farming practices to match them.

“My philosophy on the carbon programs is if they align with your vision, you’ve got to do your best to take advantage of them,” he says. “I would encourage somebody to farm the way you believe — don’t try to align your farm to a carbon program. The strip-till and cover crop process is very rewarding and it does align with carbon programs.”

But the key? “Believe in what you’re doing, then take advantage of the incentives,” he says.

Incentive Use

Rowell also uses several incentives for the cover crop/strip-till process. Two years ago, he participated in the Illinois Corn Growers carbon credit program with Pepsico, and last year enrolled in ADM’s cover crop program for carbon credits. Each program netted him a $15 to $25 per acre return.

“This coming year, I’m working with Truterra and ADM again on another program,” Rowell says, adding that his local FSA office has been a great help. He also enrolled in the crop insurance rate incentive program for cover crops through the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

“The incentives are out there and if you can get around the right people, they can help you take advantage of it,” Rowell concludes.

Click here for more Strip-Till News.