December 04, 2023

Illinois Cover Crop Initiative opens for applicants

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — American Farmland Trust began taking applications July 13 for the Illinois Cover Crop Initiative program in Illinois.

The program is in partnership with ADM, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Farmers Business Network.

Illinois Cover Crop Initiative incentives will be available to an estimated 400 farmers enrolling up to a total of 75,000 acres, including acres that have previously been planted to cover crops.

Applicants have the option of one- to four-year contracts and will be required to follow NRCS standards and specifications for managing cover crops. AFT will work closely with farmers to complete contract paperwork, lessening the time burden.

Incentives include $10 per acre annually supported by technical assistance provided in collaboration with farmers’ trusted retail partners and conservation organizations. Acres cannot be enrolled in another privately funded ecosystem market program, but may be stacked with federal and state cost-share programs.

As a part of the program, AFT will quantify economic and environmental benefits to be shared with farmers, ADM, NRCS, NFWF and FBN to further cover crop adoption into the future. In additional, technical assistance will be available to anyone interested in cover crops, regardless of program participation.

Information on the program and the application portal can be found at the AFT website, For additional questions, email AFT at

Contract awards will be made on a first-come, first-served basis until contracted acres reach 75,000. The application period will close on Dec. 31, although it is encouraged that applications are submitted before the end of August.

The AFT Illinois program is part of a $2.6 million grant announced on May 24 by ADM, NRCS, NFWF and FBN to accelerate adoption of cover crops in six Midwestern states. Other recipients include Ducks Unlimited, Kansas Association of Conservation Districts, Minnesota Soil Health Coalition and Practical Farmers of Iowa.

“This program will provide farmers with technical assistance, education and financial incentives to meet the demands of the growing interest in cover crops,” said Kris Reynolds, AFT Midwest region director. “It also offers farmers the opportunity to stack incentives with additional public programs, accelerating the adoption of cover crops in Illinois.”