Farmers are increasingly interested in planting cover crops to improve soil health, reduce nutrient losses, and enhance pest suppression, and government agencies support the use of cover crops by offering cost-share programs. This research seeks to compare cover crop incentive programs and adoption rates in Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont and to quantify the relationship between farmer adoption and incentive program structure, payment, and restrictions. I will examine existing literature on the barriers to adoption, cover crop incentive programs, and conduct a series of interviews with key stakeholders to understand the various benefits and challenges of participating in cover crop incentive programs. New knowledge generated in this project will be used to develop recommendations to improve incentive programs with the goal of increasing the number of farmers who use cover crops and the amount of farmland that is cover cropped in the Northeast. Because cover cropping can improve soil health and help farmers to manage pests and weeds, this research will tackle one of the most significant challenges facing the United States: regenerating soil health and increasing crop viability.
Project objectives from proposal:
To better understand the differences between incentive programs and to identify possible solutions we will pursue the following research and analysis:
1. Compile available data for the last five years to compare program costs, payment structure, implementation or evaluation mechanisms, and farmer adoption rates.
2. Quantify perceptions about cover crops among farmers in each of the four states.
3. Interview at least five representatives from each state, including at least three farmers, one program administrator, and one key stakeholder regarding their experience with the respective cover crop program. We will include farmers who are reluctant to join a program, as well as those that are actively engaged.
4. Develop policy recommendations to enhance positive and reduce negative externalities of the incentive programs and identify mechanisms that could improve policy or program efficiency, increase adoption rates, and intensify farmer benefits.