If you’re a dairy farmer in Wisconsin with land to spare, or you’re already a dairy farmer and row cropper (or produce your own livestock feed on-farm), there may be a good chance—and future opportunities— to get some money back into your pocket. Crop insurance premium rebates are a great financial asset for the agricultural world right now, especially in this turbulent time for dairy farmers and low prices.

In May 2023, the State of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture announced the total figures of rebates and payments it will be doling out to farmers and producers who are using their land to grow cover crops. Around $725,000 was issued to farmers and ranchers that applied last year in 2022. (Applications for this year’s crop insurance premium rebates already closed in January 2023.) Recipients are receiving $5/acre of area planted in cover crops over 2022.

Good news for farmers just learning about the program: a chance to apply will happen every year. If you didn’t apply last year, you’re not missing out— and it’s still not too late to get cover crops going this season.

This may be “old” news, dating back to May of this year— with applications closed and reward funds already dispersed— but we think it’s important to note this program as it has become a helpful permanent financial fixture for all Wisconsin farmers. Last year 2022, Wisconsin legislation approved the crop insurance premium rebate program for cover crop growers to quick bipartisan agreement, installing it as a regular annual funding opportunity— issuing premium refunds up to $800,000 (or 160,000) acres grown in cover crops.

The policy is a win-win-win solution.

A win for all farmers financially, a win for ecologically-minded and regenerative farmers, and a win for the insurance industry. But why cover crops? And why should dairy farmers (and all farmers, for that matter) cash in?

Cover crops are either main season or complementary crops that bring many benefits to the farmer, the environment, and to soil health (and thus your land’s equity) on-farm. These are typically crops that are “rotated” in between plantings of main season crops like corn, soy, wheat, or barley.

They can be planted on fields that are “resting” as winter cover in order to keep weed pressure down for future plantings, and can even help keep soil in place to prevent erosion. They can also restore organic matter / nitrogren / green manure to soil when terminated and tilled in. Some can kill soil-borne pests and disease, others can help combat soil compaction— the list of cover crop benefits goes on. Mainly, the benefits of cover crops are on the level of improving soil health (thus crop productivity) and minimizing environmental impacts.

There is a double benefit of cover crops for dairy (and livestock) growers.

Many popular cover crop varieties can also be main-season crops to provide feed or forage to livestock. These include oats, rye, sorghum, aflafa, and some others— while other cover crop options that may or may not be effective feed for livestock include peas, daikon, hairy vetch, and others.

Some dairy or beef producers may automatically qualify for the program and are encouraged to apply if they grow these crops for feed or forage already. Or, if they don’t have crop insurance coverage for their alfalfa, oats, or other cover crop or main season crop for livestock acreage, they should so they can cash in on this crop insurance rebate opportunity.

That’s the rub: applicants for the rebate program are only eligible if they are enrolled with an approved insurance provider, and the policy is active. This is why, along with recommending the program to both dairy and row crop farmers to start, we also encourage producers interested in the program to get covered by crop insurance as soon as they possibly can to be eligible for the 2023 season, and thus any possible 2024 rebate payments. It’s also not too late to implement a cover crop into your rotation with short season cover crops or main season crops, such as oats, sorghum, or rye.

Dairy producers should take note of this, too, not just row croppers— the crop insurance premium rebates work for livestock farmers as well, or any farmer with main season crop production that supplements or is integrated into their larger operation. Dairy farmers seeking any extra security, coverage, and financial padding to eke out these lean times ahead with volatile dairy prices may already be covered by some type of dairy insurance policy— whether it’s Dairy Revenue Protection (DRP) or Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC). The same goes for sole livestock coverage policies, like Livestock Gross Margin (LGM) or Livestock Risk Protection (LRP).

The added protection of crop insurance for livestock feed or forage sourcing, and which also incorporates cover crops, can provide another layer of protection and financial stability to keep your business on its feet. It certainly doesn’t hurt!

For Wisconsin farmers of all kinds— dairy, livestock, or tried-and-true row croppers— get in touch with a Colville agent to discuss our policy options, how we can help you achieve your goals by getting crop insurance premium rebates on your cover crops, and leverage the benefits of crop insurance all-around.

We’re eager to work with dairy, livestock, row crop, and even fruit and hemp growers to tailor insurance policies to their operations that help make them more money with insurance and survive even the most drastic market fluctuations— and not to add premiums that hobble overhead or increase business burdens.

We’re always on the lookout for insurance-related hacks and advantages, just like this recent Wisconsin farm legislation, that can help our clientele and all farmers get more (and keep more) cash in their pockets.

Give us a call and we’ll get you set up with the right policy and coverage to be eligible for cover crop insurance premium rebates— there’s still time!