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WI farmers have new tool to stay in 'cover-crop game'

Margaret Burlingham - stock.adob

Agriculture groups and government agencies aren't slowing down in trying to convince farmers to use more sustainable practices such as cover crops, and Wisconsin producers who have joined that movement will soon be able to sign up for reimbursements.

Starting Monday, farmers who planted cover crops this year can apply for a $5-per-acre rebate on their summer 2023 crop-insurance premium. The applications are submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Margaret Krome, policy program director for the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, which helped lead the push for the new program, said similar initiatives in other Midwestern states have paid off.

"The folks who have worked in Illinois have said they're always oversubscribed; they have tremendous demand for the program," she said. "And many of the farmers are farmers who are using it for the first time."

Krome said a 2019 survey by Michael Fields found a majority of Wisconsin farmers indicated this type of incentive would compel them to either start planting cover crops or expand their acreage. She noted that this doesn't solve all the problems tied to row-crop agriculture, but it does improve soil health, reduce runoff and ultimately, boost farmers' profits.

Nancy Kavazanjian, a farmer in Beaver Dam, has been using cover crops for nearly two decades. She said they're a great benefit, although she's found it's challenging in Wisconsin because of the short window to plant them before winter. There's hope the rebate will convince producers like her to stay committed to the movement.

"It's a nice carrot for those of us who have planted cover crops already this year," she said, "and any extra that we can get to encourage more people to use cover crops is appreciated."

State officials have said there's $800,000 - or 160,000 acres of coverage - to be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Producers who received state or federal cost-sharing to plant cover crops in 2022 are ineligible. The application period runs until Jan. 31.

Mike Moen is the Morning Edition producer and serves as a staff reporter for WNIJ. Every morning, he works with Dan Klefstad to bring listeners the latest Illinois news. He also works with the rest of the news staff on developing and producing in-depth stories. Mike is a Minnesota native who likes movies, history, and baseball. When most people hear his last name, they assume he is 100-percent Scandinavian. But, believe it or not, he is mostly German.
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