BISMARCK – Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring has asked federal authorities to reduce the penalty producers must pay if they hay cover crops on land for which they have received prevented planting payments.

"We are more than likely going to see one of the highest acreage levels for prevented planting (PP) in North Dakota's history,” Goehring said in a letter to William Murphy, administrator of USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA). “With the current weather patterns we are experiencing, we are likely to have a feed shortage as the summer progresses.”

Goehring suggested that farmers plant a cover crop, such as sudan grass, millet and other warm season forage, on PP acres when the soil is sufficiently dry. The cover crop could then be hayed and provided to livestock producers who need it to sustain their herds.

"Unfortunately, current policy makes this option economically unattractive,” Goehring said. “Farmers who would plant on PP acres and hay the crop before Nov. 1, would take a 65 percent cut on their payment, and the return on hayed crops is only about $24 per acre.”

Goehring said a 30 percent payment cut would be more reasonable and would lead more producers to plant forage and cover crops.

"Making it more economical to plant a cover crop will benefit producers and RMA by potentially reducing the number of PP acres for the following crop year,” Goehring said. “Cover crops are excellent at removing the excess water content of our soils, essentially mitigating future insurance claims by reducing the amount of soil moisture, preventing soil salinity and the size of the affected area.”