Medina County going cover crop crazy

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What is cover crop crazy? Well, it is very trendy at this time and the proof in the pudding for us is all of the various public funds made available to farmers to try cover crops. That is a good thing.

Currently in Medina County, we have four different programs providing funding to install cover crops — all of which are at different payment rates, rules, deadlines, acreage limitations, location availability, etc.

Sometimes, we are confused ourselves, let alone the farmers trying to sort out the possibilities at the coffee shop or over the hood of the pickup truck. Payment rates vary from as high as $72 per acre down to $13 per acre.

Different goals

Some are erosion and sediment reduction oriented and some are nutrient reduction based, but they all are actually healthy soil based.

In some cases, the countywide USDA program cover crop fields could be jeopardized by the other cover crop programs on the same fields. Your local district conservationist will have to sort that one out for you.

We have three cover crop programs that are specifically watershed based since we have water going to Lake Erie and the Muskingum Watershed.

Speaking of the Lake Erie Watershed, due to the Toledo water issues from Lake Erie in the form of summer algae blooms, we recently had some state funds redirected from an existing permanent vegetation program to a new cover crop program almost overnight.

Thank you to the ODNR boys in Findlay, Ohio, for concocting that so quickly.

Eligibility

So, here is the craziness we have in Medina County. We have parts of the county that are eligible for three programs and another part, two programs. Some farmers are farming in all four. No, you are not allowed to double dip, triple dip or quadruple dip on the same acres.

I know some of you were thinking about that one. We have different color sign-up forms, we have different color file covers, we have different reporting obligations, we have different goals with each one, and we have confused farmers. Again, sometimes we get confused.

I do believe the farmers are interested in the benefits of cover crops and are genuinely trying to incorporate them into their operations. They’re even overcoming shorter growing seasons, wet soils, later harvests this year, uneasiness with aerial applications, timeliness, rotation issues, distribution of fields all over the place and small fields.

Society certainly benefits from cover crops in lots of ways with too many to list here. Our office will be participating in cover crop crazy into the future and who knows, but maybe we will get another program from somewhere to finally send us to the looney bin.

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Jeff is the District Manager for the Medina SWCD since 2006. Before that he was an area representative with the ODNR Division of Soil and Water Conservation through out Northeast Ohio for most of his career. He worked closely with District Boards of Supervisors and staffs on programs and capacity building.

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