WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management agency has agree to move up the date for the haying, grazing or chopping cover crops to Sept. 1 in certain North Dakota and South Dakota counties with significant prevented planting acreage.

The date for harvesting cover crops on prevented planting acreage usually is Nov. 1. The date was moved up to Sept. 1 nationwide in 2019 due to a large number of prevented planting acreage across multiple states.

Prevented planting in 2020 was not as widespread as in the year prior, but North Dakota and South Dakota still saw many acres in the program, under which farmers can receive payments when conditions do not allow planting prior to crop insurance deadlines. Some farmers were unable to plant because of wet conditions while others never even got 2019 crops harvested and thus could not get a new crop in.

Many farmers put in cover crops to reduce erosion, increase soil health, use up soil moisture, prevent the spread of weeds and other reasons. The cover crops often are varieties that also can be used as livestock forage, but the Nov. 1 termination date falls too late in the season to get feed made in its best condition.

“Farmers in the Dakotas have seen excessive moisture over the winter and into this spring, and we made this one-year adjustment to help farmers remain good stewards of the land and provide an opportunity to ensure quality forage is available for livestock this fall,” said Bill Northey, USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

“Unlike 2019 when there was widespread flooding in the spring,” said RMA Administrator Martin Barbre, “this adjustment is targeted to the areas most impacted. The change still will allow farmers to maintain eligibility for their full 2020 prevented planting indemnity.”

Congressional members from the two states had sought the change.

“We appreciate USDA providing some flexibility on the haying and grazing date that will enable more producers to utilize cover crops on prevented plant acres. Cover crops are an important tool that helps to ensure these acres are better maintained," Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said.

The move was cheered by those in agriculture in the states.

“Between the incredible weather challenges and the market impacts of the COVID pandemic, these have been difficult times for our state’s cattle ranchers,” said Dan Rorvig, a McVille, N.D., cow-calf producer and North Dakota Stockmen’s Association president. “We appreciate RMA’s decision to grant some flexibility for the utilization of cover crops on prevent plant acres, which will be helpful in addressing some of these issues, and the senator’s steadfast efforts in carrying our request to the decision-makers.”

"USDA’s decision to move that date to Sept. 1 in some counties will provide relief to ranchers struggling to meet their feed and forage needs,” said Mark Watne, North Dakota Farmers Union President.

“We’re pleased to have some relief for those farmers and ranchers who were adversely impacted by the weather events of last fall and this spring,” said Pete Hanebutt North Dakota Farm Bureau Director of Public Policy.

This change will help our livestock producers to access needed feedstocks. Eight North Dakota ag groups were united in requesting this regulatory change; we appreciate that Washington, D.C., has listened to our concerns,” said Tom Bernhardt North Dakota Grain Growers Board President.

Counties included in the change are listed below:

North Dakota: Barnes, Benson, Bottineau, Cass, Dickey, Eddy, Foster, Grand Forks, Griggs, Kidder, La Moure, Mcintosh, Nelson, Ramsey, Ransom, Rolette, Sargent, Sheridan, Steele, Stutsman, Towner, Traill, and Wells

South Dakota: Beadle, Brown, Brule, Campbell, Clark, Codington, Day, Edmunds, Faulk, Hand, Hanson, Hyde, McPherson, Marshall, Potter, Roberts, Sanborn, Spink, and Walworth