In response to concerns raised by Farm Bureau and other organizations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service is walking back a plan to restrict how producers may harvest cover crops and remain compliant with conservation practice standard.
NRCS had proposed updating its conservation practice standard to prohibit mechanical harvesting of cover crops for hay, silage or other biomass uses. However, the agency announced earlier this month that it would not make that change, citing concerns raised by Farm Bureau and others that the restriction would present challenges to producers who use the conservation practice.
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau submitted comments to NRCS in April outlining concerns over the proposal.
“Application of this standard would virtually prohibit management of cover crops in any way that would enable farmers to use their crops for marketing or as a source of feed for animals,” PFB wrote. “While engagement of ‘commercial’ production of cover crops has not been a universally accepted practice in the field of nutrient management, more recent studies have emerged to suggest that alternative methods for management and more sustained growth with timely dressing and harvesting of cover crops may provide greater efficiency in nutrient management and environmental benefit than more traditional production of cover crops with no harvesting.”
PFB cited studies from Penn State and Iowa State that found potential for cover crops to be produced for harvest while also improving environmental benefits.