Get It Fresh at the South Sioux Farmers Market

August 4th – 10th is National Farmers Market Week. Farmers Markets are expanding to communities across the nation at an amazing rate. This year over 600 new farmers markets have been created nationally.

The Center for Rural Affairs is pleased to announce that the South Sioux City Farmers Market is back for its second year of offering fresh produce, as well as some new attractions. 

The market kicked off its second year of operation at a new location on June 2 at Dakota Ave. between 15th and 16th St., running on Sundays until October from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. All vendors are accepting Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) coupons and one vendor is equipped to handle SNAP cards.

Market goers are encouraged to visit the Information Desk to sign up to receive weekly e-announcements containing information about what produce will be sold at the upcoming market, copious free recipes ( which teach simple and easy ways to prepare fresh produce, and various other helpful local food publications. 

Farmers Markets are good for rural communities. They bring farmers and consumers together to create a stronger local economy, provide consumers with fresh, nutritious, affordable local food, and create opportunities for family farmers and ranchers - especially beginners - to diversify their operations and sell what they produce.

Make sure you visit the South Sioux Farmers Market this week and return often. For more information visit The market is a partnership between the Center for Rural Affairs and the City of South Sioux. 

  Read more about Get It Fresh at the South Sioux Farmers Market

  • Small TownsCommunity Food
Weekly column

Center Joins Rebuild Nebraska to Protect the “Good Life”

A critical tax debate is underway in Nebraska. During the legislative session, the Unicameral created the Nebraska Tax Modernization Committee to examine the state’s tax system. This committee, composed of 14 state senators, will hold meetings the rest of the year to analyze and make recommendations on what, if any, changes need to be made to our state’s tax structure. The Committee will hold regular hearings, and importantly, several public hearings.

The recommendations made by the Tax Modernization Committee will direct future tax policy in Nebraska. They will have a tremendous impact on Nebraskans, rural and urban alike. The Center has followed these issues closely, and we look forward to working with the new committee.

To stay even more engaged in the ongoing discussion about Nebraska’s tax system, the Center has joined an effort called Rebuild Nebraska. This is a collection of groups and stakeholders that believes our tax system should be stable and progressive. It should ensure we have adequate revenue to meet the state’s obligations and protect the “Good Life” we have built in Nebraska.
Rebuild Nebraska believes Nebraska’s tax system should:

  • Allow the state to invest in things Nebraska families rely on like top-notch neighborhood schools, safe communities, and well-kept streets and roads.
  • Encourage the creation of jobs and focus on investments that actually boost the economy.
  • Ensure a progressive structure that does not force middle-class and low-income families from paying a higher percentage of their income in taxes than the wealthy.

Nebraska has a good quality of life, low unemployment, and a relatively strong economy. We look forward to hearing ideas from Nebraskans and from the Tax Modernization Committee as they engage in this crucial work to protect our strong Nebraska traditions.

I encourage you to follow the discussion and "like" the Rebuild Nebraska Facebook page as well.
And, as always, you can stay updated on all the important happenings here and on the Center’s Facebook page. Read more about Center Joins Rebuild Nebraska to Protect the “Good Life”

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Spotlight on Transmission: Hoskins to Neligh Line

In May the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) completed the third round of open houses for the Hoskins to Neligh transmission line. The project will help increase reliability and efficiency in northeast Nebraska. It will also help move energy from wind farms around Neligh to markets outside of Nebraska.

When NPPD produces more energy than is needed in Nebraska, they can sell the extra wind energy to markets outside the state. Connection to these markets helps to bring the possibility of new renewable energy projects to the state.

This line will run from the Hoskins area to a new substation by Neligh. It will only be about 40 miles long. Keeping the line short was one of NPPD’s intentions in picking the site for the line. They used information gathered from landowners to find a preferred route. Other considerations were to avoid shelterbelts, to not get within 300 feet of homes, and to use as little land as possible.

To save space, NPPD will use single poles in the construction of the line. Some H frames and lattice towers that already exist may be changed to single pole as NPPD updates older structures as part of the project.

Now that NPPD has a preferred route for the Hoskins-Neligh project, they are moving to the engineering and survey phase. Getting easements from landowners for the construction process is next as well.

NPPD also needs to pick a final site for the Neligh substation. There are two possible sites at the moment, available for viewing online at Both are located northeast of Neligh.

If you have questions about the project, but missed the in-person opportunities, or you would simply like to comment on the project, visit NPPD’s virtual open houseRead more about Spotlight on Transmission: Hoskins to Neligh Line

  • Clean Energy

Lessons Learned from the Front Porch

Do you know the chipping sparrow? The chipping sparrow is a generally unremarkable bird, identifiable by its rufous (reddish brown) cap and ‘trilling’ song.

Sitting on the old stoop of my house, I have a commanding view of my garden. I often sit on the stoop to take lunch breaks and relax after work. The other day I watched as a chipping sparrow landed on the lower leaf stem of a cabbage plant, poking his head well into the heart of the plant and bringing out in his beak a cabbage worm. He flitted to every cabbage plant in the row, in sequence, and then doubled back. Have you ever seen this behavior?

19th century ornithologist Edward Forbush may have. His Birds of New England description of this sparrow is often quoted. The chipping sparrow is, “the little brown-capped pensioner of the dooryard and lawn, that comes about farmhouse doors to clean crumbs shaken from the tablecloth by thrifty housewives.”

What do the chipping sparrow’s innate actions mean to me? As in, what value do I extract from it? Well, thanks to the sparrow, I am more likely to grow successful and attractive heads of cabbage. The cabbage is both personal sustenance (food?) and savings in cost, meaning my hard-earned wages can go toward other needs.

The chipping sparrow saved me the expense of research into pest control options, purchase of pest control, and eventual application and exposure to any associated risks. If the sparrow has been pooping in the cabbage neighborhood, he may have even added some nutrients back into the soil, thereby stimulating the microbial growth which allows my plants to take up even more soil nutrients. Also derived from the sparrow’s generous act is the peace and relaxation I felt observing the grace of this bird, its nimbleness and thoroughness.

There is a concept which describes the benefits we derive from nature: Ecosystem Services. The concept encompasses an infinite range of benefits to us, including among other things, natural filtration of drinking water, the pollination of crops, the recycling of waste, and the inspiring of arts and culture, as well as high-tech biomimetic designs. Farmers have the potential to facilitate the ‘harvest’ of many Ecosystem Services. In addition to food, farms can ‘produce’ healthy soil, ‘produce’ clean and sequestered ground water, and even ‘produce’ clean air.

As new Rural Opportunities and Stewardship Program staff, Ecosystem Services is just one of the many interesting aspects of ecosystems and biodiversity about which I look forward to talking with you in the future. Read more about Lessons Learned from the Front Porch

  • Small Towns
Your stories

Farm Tours Take Latino Entrepreneurs to Diversified Farms in Central Nebraska

For the second time this summer, the Center for Rural Affairs is hosting a day of farm tours as part of their Beginning Latino Farmer Program. 

These tours will expose participants to a wider range of farming possibilities. In June we visited several diversified farms; saw poultry, cattle, hogs, vegetables, and a farmers’ market. This time, we’ll visit sheep and goat farms and learn about extending the vegetable-growing season with hoop houses.

The free day of farm tours will take place on Sunday, August 18, 2013 from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Participants will meet and depart from the Lexington Public Library at 907 N Washington St, Lexington, NE. The tour group will visit Lammers Gelbvieh in Lexington, Meyer Sheep in Riverdale, and a hoop house in the Kearney area. Bilingual staff will join the group for the entire tour.

This event will introduce participants to a variety of production and marketing techniques. Topics will include genetics and cooperative sales of sheep and goats, and season-extension of vegetable production.  Tour participants will learn how these farmers balance off-farm jobs with their hearty on-farm schedules.  They’ll also learn about opportunities to participate in a mentorship program through the Nebraska Sheep and Goat Producers.  During the hoop house tour, structure construction options and NRCS funding will be discussed.

Transportation and refreshments will be provided. Attendees must pre-register with Erin Frank at or 402.822.0066.  Deadline to register is Monday, August 12th. Read more about Farm Tours Take Latino Entrepreneurs to Diversified Farms in Central Nebraska

  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
Weekly column

Healthcare and You: A Few Questions Answered

As October rolls nearer, so does the beginning of your state’s health insurance marketplace. This marketplace is the spot for you to buy affordable insurance, and find out if you qualify for subsidies. Do you have all the information you need to make the best choice for your family?

Keep your questions coming! This month, we’ll focus on the subsidies available after Jan. 1, 2014, that will help make insurance affordable for many rural Americans.

I know my income determines whether I receive subsidies for health insurance. Is that my income before or after taxes?

The health insurance marketplace will look at your household modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) when determining whether you qualify for subsidies. Household income includes the incomes of the primary taxpayer(s) and their tax dependents (e.g., children). For most taxpayers, MAGI will be the same as Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). Here’s where you can easily find the AGI, depending upon the tax form you use: Form 1040 EZ – Line 4; Form 1040A – Line 22; Form 1040 – Line 38.

Between my spouse and me, our household income is about $30,000 per year. Our kids are grown. Do we qualify for a subsidy? If so, how much?

Yes! Because you are just under 200% of poverty, you qualify for a subsidy. You will likely pay a bit less than 6.3% of your modified adjusted gross income for health insurance. Check here to get a general idea of your own subsidy

My daughter lives in North Carolina, works two part-time jobs and makes 80% of poverty. Will she get a subsidy? 

Unfortunately, your daughter may be in a sticky situation. 

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was written to expand Medicaid to everyone below 133% of the federal poverty level. It gave subsidies only to folks above 100% of poverty. When the Supreme Court ruled last June on the ACA, they gave states the choice of doing this expansion or not. Right now, North Carolina has decided not to expand Medicaid. So if she doesn’t qualify for Medicaid now, she will not qualify in 2014 unless her income changes or she has a child. But your daughter also won’t have access to federal subsidies because she is under the poverty line.

The only silver lining is that she can apply for a “hardship waiver,” which will exempt her from the requirement to have insurance and thus not be penalized. Of course, that won’t help her if she gets sick – she still won’t have insurance.

These articles are meant solely to answer questions we receive and provide general information about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Center for Rural Affairs does not offer or provide legal advice. CFRA is not an insurance agency, broker, or consultant; does not recommend any health insurance product or policy or provide any advice on the purchasing of health insurance; and does not accept any compensation or consideration from an insurance company, insurance broker, or insurance consultant. Read more about Healthcare and You: A Few Questions Answered

  • Rural Health

Workshops and Farm Tours for Nebraska’s Latino Farmers

Aspiring Latino farmers in Nebraska now have the opportunity to attend Spanish-language workshops through CFRA’s Beginning Latino Farmer Program. Designed to improve the viability of Latino farmers in the state, these workshop sessions bring business management, leadership, and production skills to attendees.

Our first series of workshops was held in Lexington, NE, where 10 participants joined CFRA bilingual staff at the public library. Speakers from the Farm Service Agency, small business owners, farmers, and educators shared their expertise over the course of the 10-week class series. Each session was complete with a visual presentation and hard-copy curriculum for take-home use.

This summer, the group has already completed one day of farm tours, and will hold one more tour day on August 18. Beginners gained valuable knowledge during both classroom workshop sessions and farm tours. Not only are they learning the ins and outs of owning a small agricultural enterprise, but they are also becoming more aware of and connected to the support-systems and community resources that can ultimately create strong individual farmers as well a hearty farmer network in Nebraska.

Our June tour day took the group to the Highland Park Farmers’ Market in Hastings, where direct-marketing to the consumer was highlighted. Travelling next to North Star Neighbors near Fullerton, farmers discussed cooperative arrangements and poultry production. Our last stop at Garcia Farms near Wood River gave the group insight into a very diversified operation, from on-site value-adding to hog and vegetable production. We look forward to another inspiring day of farm tours in August.

Contact me, Erin, to find out more about the August 18th tour: , or check here on our Events calendar. Read more about Workshops and Farm Tours for Nebraska’s Latino Farmers

  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher

Partisan Rancor Prevents a Meaningful Farm Bill

If you have been following the farm bill process then you know it has been a rough and pretty interesting debate. On the eve of the August Congressional Recess, here's a report on how things stand.

On June 20, 2013, the US House of Representatives rejected passage of the farm bill by a vote of 234-195. The bill was defeated largely because of the huge cuts and changes to the nutrition title, the legislative section that provides for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) and other nutrition programs for low-income families.

The US House of Representatives came back at it, and on July 11, 2013, passed a farm bill on the second try this year by a vote of 216-208. This farm bill, however, was missing the nutrition title, and no amendments were allowed to be offered on the floor during debate.

An amendment introduced by Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) in the earlier farm bill debate – the one that failed – was retained in this bill. It places meaningful limits on how much any one farm operation can receive in federal farm program payments. Rep. Fortenberry’s determined championing of farm program payment limit reform is laudable and a bright spot in what otherwise was a discouraging debate over farm, food, and rural policy.

Sadly, the House farm bill fails to hold crop insurance premium subsidies to the same standard as farm program payments, continuing to allow the nation’s largest farms and wealthiest farmers to receive crop insurance premium subsidies every year on every acre regardless of price, production, or profitability, with no limits whatsoever.

Moreover, the House farm bill fails to tie crop insurance to conservation compliance or to prevent breaking of native grassland for crop production. It also fails to adequately invest in conservation and rural development, small business development in particular.

Arguably, the ugliest facet of this farm bill process was the turn toward partisan rancor. In the end, every House Democrat voted against the bill. All but 12 Republicans voted in favor. The farm bill should reflect rural America’s priorities and not get bogged down in petty partisan politics.

What is next? That remains to be seen. We do know the US House of Representatives sent their bill to the US Senate on July 16, 2013. That gets them closer to going to conference committee with the Senate to work out the differences. But therein is the key question – how do they resolve the differences in such vastly different bills? Stay tuned and we will keep you posted. Read more about Partisan Rancor Prevents a Meaningful Farm Bill

  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill

Recharged: Energy Interns Go to Des Moines

On a recent Monday morning, Lucas Nelsen and I took a road trip to attend a transmission route planning meeting in Des Moines hosted by ITC Midwest, a transmission developer. Lucas hadn’t been through Iowa in about a decade, and I had never spent much time in the state.

We were surprised to see a constant flow of massive turbine blades being trucked down I-80. They moved gracefully down the interstate like massive whales in a sea of small vehicles. We were also blown away by the scale of the 193-turbine Rolling Hills wind farm in Adair, IA. Everywhere we looked we saw a spinning wind turbine.

Soon we arrived at the ITC meeting to discuss the proposed routing of the Minnesota-Iowa project. Two proposed segments of line were given extended airtime – a segment that will run north and east of Forest City, IA, and another segment that will run east of the Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge.

The primary concerns raised related to the safety of waterfowls and the desired expansion of pre-existing transmission easements to run alongside Wetland Reserve Program land. The meeting was great. It provided us with an opportunity to work with ITC and address public concerns.

The Des Moines trip was an excellent experience. From this short hop over the state line, we realized our efforts are making a difference. We are excited to continue working on these important issues.

Later this August, both Lucas and I should be concluding big research papers we’ve been working on. Lucas’ paper will discuss concerns landowners have related to transmission development. My paper will explore how to minimize the use of eminent domain when assembling land for transmission corridors.

Thank you for your support!

Brandon, Lucas, and the Energy Team (aka Virginia, Brian, and Johnathan) Read more about Recharged: Energy Interns Go to Des Moines

  • Clean Energy
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Waiting for Wind

The long wait is finally over. After years of research, debate, and political bickering, the Nebraska Unicameral recently passed a bill that offers wind developers incentives for building in Nebraska. Unfortunately, however, it fails to provide an incentive for developing wind right – in a manner that maximizes Nebraska ownership, wealth, and business opportunities.

Legislative Bill 104 provides a sales tax exemption for new renewable electric generation projects. The Center for Rural Affairs worked to tie the sales tax exemption to purchases from Nebraska businesses, employment of local workers, and creation of employee stock ownership arrangements.

Simply put the bill as passed hands over incentives just for showing up. We and most other Nebraska organizations that support wind development argued unsuccessfully to require that you invest in Nebraska before the state invests in you.

LB 104 is a step in the right direction. By encouraging wind developers to build in Nebraska, this bill helps grow the rural economy. New jobs will be created, schools and roads will improve, and com¬munities will experience an influx of activity. The state is better for it.

But it’s important to remember just how much was left on the table. While neighboring states have benefited from the economic development wind energy offers, many rural leaders will tell you that requiring investment in local communities is a requirement worth making. Instead of flowing to out-of-state contractors, accountants, and engineers, money would instead be used to bolster existing businesses and help fund new enterprises.

And extending the opportunity to own a piece of wind farms to the rural Nebraskans who climb the turbines to keep them running would have been good for the entire community. It builds local wealth and the economic resilience of residents.

Encouraging local ownership and supporting local businesses helps build the Nebraska economy, not just a project. That’s important to the future of Nebraska, rural and urban alike. The Center for Rural Affairs supported passage of LB 104, but we know that Nebraska can do better. With your help we’ll work hard during the next legislative session to make sure our elected officials get it right. Read more about Waiting for Wind

  • Clean Energy

Fresh Food and Opportunity at Your Local Farmers Market

August 4th – 10th is National Farmers Market Week. Farmers Markets are expanding to communities across the nation at an amazing rate. Since 1994, the number of farmers markets in the USDA National Farmers Market Directory has more than quadrupled. Last year the number of farmers markets reached 7,864 and this year that number will most likely top 8,000 by a considerable margin when the results of the annual Directory update are announced this week as a part of the USDA celebration of National Farmers Market Week.

Farmers Markets are good for rural communities. They bring farmers and consumers together, create a stronger local economy, provide consumers with fresh, nutritious, affordable local food, and create opportunities for family farmers and ranchers - especially beginners - to diversify their operations and sell what they produce.

Make sure you visit your local Farmers Market this week and return often. To find a farmers market near you check out the USDA National Farmers Market Directory (

If you don’t have a Farmers Market nearby, you can help create one in your community. Get started by calling the Center for Rural Affairs at 402.687.2100 and asking for the Farm Bill Helpline and then check out USDA’s Farmers Market Promotion Program (, which provides an excellent opportunity for market farmers, market gardeners and rural communities to establish and promote farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer food marketing. Read more about Fresh Food and Opportunity at Your Local Farmers Market

  • Small TownsCommunity Food
Weekly column

House Farm Bill Out of Touch with Rural Americans

The US House of Representatives’ farm bill is out of touch with rural America in its disregard for protecting the small town and rural way of life. If and when a conference committee meets to produce a final farm bill, it should incorporate the Senate’s rural development provisions.

Last month, I reported on our bipartisan poll of rural voters in the Southeast, Midwest, and Great Plains. Nearly 9-in-10 rural Americans say the rural and small town way of life is worth fighting for and protecting; but 7-in-10 worry it is dying. Three-fourths blame politicians for ignoring problems of rural and small town America.

They have a point. Our 2007 study found USDA invested only half as much in rural development programs to serve millions of people in the 20 rural counties suffering the worst population decline in each of 13 leading farm states, as it spent just to subsidize the 20 largest farms in each of those states. It’s not getting better. Real federal investment in helping small towns and rural entrepreneurs has fallen by half over the last decade.

The House farm bill would make it worse, jeopardizing the continued existence of USDA’s primary rural small business development program – the Rural Microenterprise Development Program. It would receive zero funding, resulting in less financing and business planning assistance for rural small businesses. The House would provide zero funding for the small towns on a long waiting list for USDA loans and grants to make critical upgrades to their water and sewer systems.

The House farm bill flies in the face of rural American’s priorities. Of those polled, 8-in-10 support grants and loans to revitalize small towns through upgrades to water and sewer systems. Over half said “owning my own business or farm is a big part of the American dream for me.” Three-fourths agreed with federal funding for small business loans and training.

The rural voters polled had a common-sense approach to finding the money to pay for it. Three-fourths said “stop over subsidizing the nation’s largest farms to drive smaller operations out of business.”

The House bill does include one step in that direction, sponsored by Nebraska Representative Jeff Fortenberry. It would close loopholes and tighten limits on traditional farm program payments to mega farms. But it would place no limits on what has become the primary farm program – federal crop insurance. If one corporation farmed all of America, taxpayers would foot 60 percent of its crop insurance premiums every year on every acre.

The House farm bill is out of touch with rural America and the commitment of rural people to protect the small town and rural way of life.

Find more on the poll of rural voters on federal policy here. Read more about House Farm Bill Out of Touch with Rural Americans

  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill

Farm to School Program Finds Success in Nebraska

Despite its newness, efforts to increase awareness of Nebraska’s Farm to School Program are paying off. Last spring, the first Farm to School Summit at the University of Nebraska, Kearney (UNK), served as a networking opportunity for like-minded people in central Nebraska.

On its heels, UNK picked the Farm to School Program as a client in an Advertising Management class. Two groups of students created advertising campaigns for the program. Check out their wonderful ideas in our new facebook page, and add your “like” when you visit

In May, an enthusiastic group of middle school students spoke at the annual National Farm to School Conference in Omaha. These seventh and eighth grade girls from Logan Fontenelle Middle School in Bellevue decided they wanted to see a change in their school meals. Working with us, they now have a handful of farmers in their area who are interested in helping them achieve their goal of eating fresh, local food at school.

The summer months have been busy with farmers markets, a great place to talk to farmers about getting involved with Farm to School. A presentation at the Minden Rotary Club helped extend the excitement. And I was absolutely amazed by a visit to the Children’s Garden in Lexington, NE. Summer school kids go to the garden each week to learn about and taste all the different types of crops. Their accomplishments were terrific.

Interest and involvement with Farm to School has increased rapidly. Thanks to the Center for Rural Affairs and our partners, the program is making a name for itself. We expect that to continue!

Contact me, Bailey, for more information or to get involved, baileym@ or 308.325.3839. Read more about Farm to School Program Finds Success in Nebraska

  • Small TownsCommunity Food

New Developments for Transmission Project

An important energy transmission project in Iowa will be the subject of several public meetings. The Sheldon-Webster transmission project is a 215 mile transmission line, with 145 miles located in Iowa (running through Kossuth, Winnebago, and Worth counties). This project will help increase energy capacity and reliability of the grid throughout the Midwest. A notable opportunity that the project provides is to link renewable energy projects to larger markets.

The next step for ITC Midwest -- developer of the Sheldon-Webster project -- will be to apply for a franchise from the Iowa Utilities Board in order to build the line. In Iowa, developers must hold informational meetings for communities and landowners that are in the study corridor for the project to receive approval from state regulators. 

ITC Midwest will be holding such meetings which are great opportunities for community members and landowners to receive information about the project, and provide feedback to the developer and state regulators concerning the line.

Meetings will be held August 1 at the Kensett Community Center at 300 Willow Street in Kensett at 9 a.m., IA; at the Branding Iron at 135 Jackson Street in Thompson at 2 p.m, IA; and August 2 at the Eagle Center at 401 Smith Street in Lakota, IA at 9 a.m.

Representatives of the Iowa Utility Board will be present to inform landowners of their rights in the siting process, and representatives of ITC Midwest will also be present to answer questions about the project from the community and landowners. Read more about New Developments for Transmission Project

  • Clean Energy
Weekly column

Higher Yields (and more) with Cover Crops

Farmers across the country reported higher yields from use of cover crops, especially in drought zones, in 2012. Over 700 farmers responding to a survey reported yield increases for corn and beans following cover crops.

The Conservation Technology Information Center carried out a survey of experienced cover crop farmers last winter. Responding farmers had over 200,000 acres under cover crops, about 10% of the national cover crop acreage.

Farmers reported that dormant-season cover crops led to increased yields of 9.6% for corn and 11.6% for soybeans over fields without cover crops. In severe drought regions, yield differences were even higher: 11.0% for corn and 14.3% for beans. Farmers spent, on average, $40/acre establishing their cover crops.

“The yield improvements provided from cover crops in 2012 were likely a combination of factors,” stated Dr. Rob Myers, a University of Missouri agronomist, “such as better rooting of the cash crop along with the residue blanket provided by the cover crop reducing soil moisture loss. Also, where cover crops have been used for several years, we know that organic matter typically increases, which improves rainfall infiltration and soil water holding capacity.”

Cover crops in a crop rotation can provide a range of benefits to soils, crops, and water quality. They can control erosion, smother weeds, reduce soil moisture loss, and add nitrogen and organic matter to the soil. Nearly all survey respondents identified “soil health” as a key benefit of using cover crops.

Another benefit, cover crops can also slow climate change or reduce its impacts on crops. Cover crops increase capture of carbon from the air when they are used during the cash-crop dormant season. They add more carbon to the soil, where it can be stored, than cash crops alone. Mixtures of legumes and grains as cover crops can reduce synthetic fertilizer used for cash crops, cutting emissions of potent greenhouse gases.

Acreage of cover crops has increased nearly 40% per year since 2009, and knowledge of how to manage them has grown. USDA’s handbook Managing Cover Crops Profitably is a good guide to crops, seed sources, planting techniques, and more. Both the handbook and the full survey report are available free online from USDA SARE. Read more about Higher Yields (and more) with Cover Crops

  • Farm PolicyFarm and Food


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