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Bill to Support Cover Crops Introduced in WI Legislature

On January 8, Wisconsin State Representatives Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville) and Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) introduced a bill whose measures derive from the testimony received as part of 14 hearings conducted in summer of 2019 as co-chairs of the Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality. The bill proposes $200,000/year to support a pilot program similar to those created in Iowa and Illinois that reduces Wisconsin farmers’ crop insurance premium for cover crops acres. For a copy of the actual legislative language, see page 13 of the Task Force’s Report.

Details are subject to determination by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, which would implement the program. The program would not offer crop insurance discounts through this program for acres already enrolled in NRCS or state cost-share conservation programs for cover crops practices.

Experience from Nearby States. In 2017, Iowa established a 3-year pilot program to reduce the farmers’ crop insurance premium by $5/acre for acres planted into cover crops. Last year, the program enrolled 700 farmers on nearly 170,000 acres.

In May of 2019, the State of Illinois followed suit, committing $300,000 /year to fund a similar 3-year pilot program, with a similar $5/acre. Its funding was subscribed within two weeks!

Wisconsin – In Wisconsin, fewer than ten percent of farmers plant cover crops. In 2017, approximately six percent of acres were planted to cover crops.

In 2019, the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute surveyed state farmers to assess interest in creating such a program in this state. Although not a random sample survey, the 119 respondents nonetheless demonstrated considerable interest in a crop insurance premium reduction program similar to those of Iowa and Illinois. 68% of farmers who had already planted cover crops said that such a program would increase their acreage or frequency of planting cover crops, and 64% of those who had not planted cover crops said it would increase their likelihood of planting them.

Michael Fields Agricultural Institute salutes Reps Novak and Shankland for advancing this proposal and will be working to seek passage of this in the Assembly and Senate this year. For more information, contact Margaret Krome at mkrome@michaelfields.org or (608) 628-2503.