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New program helps farmers with uncovered fields

AUSTIN, Minn. (FOX 47) – Many farmers in southern Minnesota have been unable to plant crops this season due to flooded or wet fields.

The Environmental Quality Incentive Program helps farmers plant cover crops as an alternative to letting their fields go uncovered.

It can have a profound impact on their soil’s health and help the environment by preventing runoff.

Tom Cotter has been planting cover crops for 20 years now.

“I always tell everyone that the reason why we started was because my dad liked to see me work.” laughed Cotter.

He has been planting cover crops for 20 years now.

“What they do is they help the water infiltrate a lot better.” Cotter explained.

He reports a reduced chemical bill, good drainage, fewer weeds and better storage of nutrients for his crops. He also uses the cover crops for his animals to graze.

While Cotter says that using cover crops is a no-brainer, experimenting with the unknown has many farmers nervous.

“New techniques, it’s a newer technology and it takes getting used to,” said Steve Lawler of the Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District. “That can be difficult, especially when you are dealing with very fine margins in cash cropping operations.”

In addition to retaining nutrients and preventing erosion, the usage of cover crops can also alleviate another problem farmer’s today face.

“You can also reduce compaction of the soil which is a very serious problem in our soils today from equipment and tillage practices.” Lawler said.

Both Cotter and Lawler have worked to help train those getting into cover crops, and Mower County farmers are advised to work with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to get started.

“Start simple. Start in a small area and get used to the technology,” advised Lawler. “Definitely talk to farmers that have been doing it. That’s probably the key thing.”

Oats are commonly used as a cover crop for farmers starting out.

The NRCS program pays farmers roughly $34 an acre using available funding. Funds are given out based on environmental impact.

The deadline to submit an application is Friday.

Alex Tejada

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