Dear Secretary Perdue:
We write to request that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) again exercise its authority to allow producers to graze or harvest cover crops on prevented plant acres prior to November 1.
As you know, there were more than 19 million prevented plant acres across the United States in 2019 due to excessive rainfall and spring flooding. Due to an administrative rule, producers were not allowed to graze or harvest cover crops on these acres prior to November 1 without a reduction in their prevented plant indemnity. This rule served as a barrier to cover crop adoption, especially in northern states that have shorter growing seasons and often face adverse weather conditions by November 1.
To address this, on June 20, 2019, USDA made a one-time administrative change to move up the date on which producers could graze, hay, or chop cover crops on prevented plant acres from November 1 to September 1. We appreciated this flexibility, which allowed producers to retain some agricultural value of their prevented plant acres.
While we do not expect nearly as many prevented plant acres as last year, we request that you again provide relief for producers by eliminating the penalties for grazing, haying, or chopping cover crops approved by USDA as long as the activities are outside of the primary nesting season. This would help ensure that producers have adequate sources of feed for the backlog of livestock due to the meat processing capacity shortfalls because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It would also encourage the adoption of cover crops, which improve soil health, suppress weeds, and reduce erosion. At a minimum, we encourage USDA to move up the date for grazing, haying, or chopping cover crops on these acres from November 1 to September 1 due to unprecedented environmental and economic circumstances.
We appreciate your efforts to assist producers affected by COVID-19. Thank you for your prompt consideration of this request.