It’s summertime and a delicious part of summer barbecues is corn on the cob. Whether it’s the sweet corn we enjoy at cookouts, or corn grown for livestock feed, the crop plays an important role in American life. Native Americans taught the European settlers how to grow and prepare corn, including popcorn, which they ate as a breakfast cereal with milk and maple syrup. Corn was first cultivated in Southern Mexico and Central America six to ten thousand years ago.

An ear or cob of corn is part of a flower and an individual kernel is a seed. Corn is a cereal crop that is part of the grass family. On average an ear of corn has 800 kernels in 16 rows. One bushel of corn contains about 72,800 kernels and weighs 56 pounds. Corn is big business in American Agriculture. Last year, nearly $44 billion in liability was insured for corn, covering more than 84 million acres nationwide.

Many corn farmers practice the environmentally beneficial practice of planting cover crops between harvest time and the next planting season. Cover crops are those that help with erosion control and soil health. Some common examples are cereal rye or radishes.

Farmers that use cover crops just received great news. Growers who have coverage under most crop insurance policies are eligible for a premium benefit from USDA if they planted cover crops during this crop year.

The Pandemic Cover Crop Program (PCCP), offered nationally by RMA, helps farmers maintain their cover crop systems, despite financial challenges posed by COVID. The program reduces producers’ overall premium bill to help them continue this climates-smart agricultural practice.

The PCCP is part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative, a bundle of programs to bring financial assistance to producers who felt the impact of COVID-19 market disruptions.

A farmer plants corn directly into his cover crops, Evansville, Indiana, May 2021

Cultivating cover crops requires a sustained, long-term investment, and the economic challenges of the pandemic made it financially challenging for many producers to maintain cover crop systems. We wanted to support their efforts and provide some relief.

We had a model from several state programs that we wanted to try to use to assist those producers. We are grateful to the states of Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana for piloting this program design. We also must recognize the great effort put forth by USDA county offices, approved insurance providers and agents, and of course the dedication of our team at RMA.

Please pass the word to all farmers using cover crops! More information about PCCP can be found on our website.

– Richard