WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided to allow agriculture producers to hay or graze cover crops planted on acres in prevented planting on Sept. 1, rather than Nov. 1.

Producers will be able to hay, graze or cut cover crops for silage, haylage or baleage on prevented plant acres beginning on Sept. 1 and remain eligible for their full 2019 prevented planting indemnity. The change is for this year only.

Members of Congress had urged the move as the quality and quantity of feed produced would decrease by Nov.1, and many parts of the country are in need of feed given the wet conditions and flooding experienced in much of the Midwest. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators urged the change in a letter to USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey, noting the increased use of cover crops would also reduce soil erosion and improve soil health, weed suppression and moisture retention.

“We recognize farmers were greatly impacted by some of the unprecedented flooding and excessive rain this spring, and we made this one-year adjustment to help farmers with the tough decisions they are facing this year,” Northey said in a statement. “This change will make good stewardship of the land easier to accomplish while also providing an opportunity to ensure quality forage is available for livestock this fall.”

“We appreciate USDA heeding our call to provide an earlier date for haying and grazing of cover crops on prevent plant acres,” Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said in a statement. “This earlier date will help producer to better utilize cover crops, which are an important tool for our farmers that allows prevent plant acres to be better maintained.”

USDA also announced that the Farm Service Agency will be extending the deadline to report prevented planting acres in select counties, and that the Natural Resources Conservation Service will hold special sign-ups for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to provide cost-share assistance in the planting of cover crops on impacted land, according to Rep. Collin Peterson's office.

“Farmers are in need of options and common-sense flexibility given this year’s disaster situation, where we have millions of acres of farm and rangeland impacted. The changes announced today by USDA will go a long way toward providing farmers and livestock producers with options to address the forage situation in many parts of the country. After hearing from hundreds of farmers at a town hall meeting, I urged the Secretary to make this change, and I appreciate the willingness of Secretary Perdue to provide this relief to farmers and ranchers," Peterson said in a statement.