The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has $1 million available for Missouri landowners who apply by July 19 for assistance to plant cover crops on flooded cropland, State Conservationist J.R. Flores said.
Flores said that only land in the 13 Missouri counties included in a Presidential Disaster Declaration is eligible. Those counties are: Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Carroll, Chariton, Holt, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Perry, Platte, Ray and Ste. Genevieve.
“NRCS is making this funding available to farmers who can’t plant a cash crop this year because of out-of-bank flooding or backwater flooding,” Flores said. “It might seem like a small consolation during this difficult time, but at least they can protect the land from further erosion and restore soil health by establishing a cover crop on that land.”
Fields that are saturated for an extended period can lose important soil organisms, Flores explained. Cover crop roots add organic matter and create pathways for air and water to move through the soil, which is key to restoring its health.
Farmers who are approved for funding would be allowed to graze the cover crops, but not harvest them or cut them for hay, Flores said. He advised farmers to check with their crop insurance agents about possible effects on prevented planting requirements and harvest restrictions for cover crops. The funding is being made available through NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
“EQIP isn’t designed to be a disaster program, but we are being as flexible with it as we can be to provide some assistance to Missouri farmers who might not be able to plant a traditional cash crop this year,” he said.
Flores said that farmers with affected land in the 13 counties included in the Presidential Disaster Declaration should apply for assistance through their local NRCS offices. NRCS offices can be found in the phone book under “U.S. Government, Department of Agriculture,” or online at http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app.