INDIANAPOLIS — Farmers across Indiana and Michigan can now enroll in a program paying them to plant cover crops.
Ducks Unlimited (DU) has partnered with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, ADM, United States Department of Agriculture and Farmers Business Network to incentivize producers in both states to plant 75,000 acres of cover crops to improve water quality and wildlife habitats.
Over the next four years, DU will work with their partners and private landowners to enroll acres into cover crop contracts with ADM. In return, the landowners will receive a $10 per acre incentive payment, each year, for four years ($40 per acre total).
Ducks Unlimited, through NFWF funding, will provide technical assistance and support to landowners on cover crop implementation across Indiana and Michigan. DU will work closely with producers to complete contract paperwork, lessening the time burden. ADM incentive payments include $10 per acre annual payments.
The NFWF award is part of a larger $2.6 million program in partnership with ADM and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). This grant, under NFWF’s Midwest Cover Crop Initiative, aims to plant cover crops on 500,000 acres across Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan and Minnesota.
Cover crops are a crucial conservation practice that benefits wildlife habitat and water quality for communities. Historically, converting native habitat to intensively farmed row crops could result in soil erosion and a loss of soil health. In certain geographies, it could mean nutrient run-off into waterways and a loss of wildlife habitat. The nutrient run-off contributes to harmful algae blooms in the Great Lakes and the oxygen-depleted gulf hypoxia regions in the Gulf of Mexico.
Now, farmers are seeing new opportunities to plant cover crops to keep soil in place and reduce nutrient pollutants. However, according to the NRCS, cover crops are used on only 6% of cultivated land in the north-central United States. DU’s goal is to help farmers apply cover crop practices to improve soil health, reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases and improve water resources while providing economic benefits to participating producers and maintaining benefits to wildlife.
Mark Flaspohler directs agriculture conservation efforts in DU’s Great Lakes/Atlantic Region.
“Indiana and Michigan are losing millions of tons of topsoil each year,” he said. “Cover crops promote sustainable agriculture, thereby protecting local, rural agricultural economies. To begin addressing soil health, the importance of promoting conservation on private agriculture lands cannot be overstated.”
DU’s goal is to increase the staff capacity needed to expand outreach to agriculture producers and landowners while also developing the partnerships needed to bridge the gap between conservation planning and on-the-ground implementation. Project activities will occur across all of Indiana and Michigan and are further targeted in the intensive agricultural watersheds of Saginaw Bay and the St. Joseph River in Michigan; and the Western Lake Erie Basin of Indiana and Michigan.
“DU recognizes the importance of this collaborative approach and has been expanding our wetland conservation mission across the Midwest to increase focus on private agricultural lands, soil health and water quality,” Flaspohler said.
For details or to enroll, visit www.ducks.org/covercrops.
Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 15 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org.
— Ducks Unlimited