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Environmental & ag groups push for IL cover crop expansion

A coalition of environmental and agricultural groups are encouraging state lawmakers to expand the Illinois Fall Covers for Spring Savings Program (FCSS).

Eliot Clay, land use programs director with the Illinois Environmental Council, tells Brownfield…

“We’re really interested in this as an environmental organization because of where we’re at with nutrient loss reduction in the state.”  He says, “In a lot of ways we’re going the wrong direction, and this has been a unique opportunity for us because I think everybody is seeing the mutual benefit.” 

Farmers who are accepted into the program receive a $5-an-acre subsidy on their next year’s crop insurance for every acre of cover crops they plant.  Clay says the groups want to see 3-million dollars allocated to cover 500-thousand acres in the next state budget.

“There is a lot more demand for this program than there is available acreage and I think the political reality in Springfield is actually pretty favorable for this right now.”  He says, “Legislators have been asking, you know, why is there not more money in this program?”

This year the program received 660-thousand dollars and covered 100-thousand acres. 

Brady Holst, western Illinois farmer and Illinois Soybean Association board member, says expanding the program could help farmers become eligible for future incentives as well.

“It seems like both sides can agree that’s something that’s good, to see a lot more people trying it out.”  He says, “I think there will be a lot more in the future as some of the biofuels incentives change, and that includes putting on cover crop.”

In addition to soil health and water quality benefits, advocates say expansion of FCSS would remove carbon dioxide that equates to more than 37,000 vehicles off Illinois roads each year.

Illinois lawmakers must pass a state budget by the end of the month.  

Other groups backing the proposal include American Farmland Trust, Prairie Rivers Network, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, and The Nature Conservancy.

AUDIO: Eliot Clay – land use programs director at Illinois Environmental Council

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