Published Jun 3, 2021

New pandemic-related federal premium for cover crops available to farmers who certify by June 15

By Tamsyn Jones
The program is modeled on state-level efforts piloted in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana by Practical Farmers of Iowa and partners

Contact: Tamsyn Jones | Editor & Outreach Coordinator | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 |

AMES, Iowa — Farmers who planted cover crops during the 2021 crop year, starting fall 2020 through spring 2021, may be eligible to receive a $5 per acre premium thanks to a new pandemic-related program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture if they submit the necessary paperwork by June 15.

The Pandemic Cover Crop Program, announced June 1 by the USDA, offers premium support to producers who insured their spring crop with most insurance policies and planted a qualifying cover crop during the 2021 crop year, which is a fall 2020-planted cover crop.

Qualifying cover crops include cereals, grasses, legumes, brassicas, non-legume broadleaves and mixes of two or more cover crop species planted at the same time.

The new federal cover crop premium program is modeled on state-level programs in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, which Practical Farmers of Iowa helped to launch.

“This new program is exciting because it could help open the door to a discount on crop insurance, since farmers planting cover crops over time are using biological risk mitigation,” says Sarah Carlson, strategic initiatives director for Practical Farmers of Iowa. “The goal is that farmers using soil health practices are given a ‘good driver’ discount.”

The Pandemic Cover Crop Program is being offered by USDA’s Risk Management Agency and is part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative.

Farmers in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana – which all have state-level crop insurance premiums for cover crops – are still eligible to receive the additional federal premium.

To receive the benefit, producers must file a Report of Acreage form (FSA-578) for cover crops with USDA’s Farm Service Agency by June 15, 2021.

For full program details, visit

In 2017, PFI worked with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Farmers Union and Natural Resources Defense Council to pilot the first state-level cover crop insurance premium program in Iowa.

“We continued to work with NRDC and IFU to get surrounding states to try it,” Sarah says. “Partners in Illinois, like the American Farmland Trust, launched the program in Illinois in 2019. NRDC also worked with partners in Indiana last year to start their program.”

The American Farmland Trust will host an informational webinar on Monday, June 7, from 10:30-11:30 a.m. CDT, for farmers looking to learn more and get their questions answered. Farmers can register for the webinar at


Practical Farmers of Iowa works to equip farmers to build resilient farms and communities. Our values include: welcoming everyone; farmers leading the exchange of experience and knowledge; curiosity, creativity, collaboration and community; resilient farms now and for future generations; and stewardship of land and resources. To learn more, visit