Mower County farmers not able to plant their crops this season due to flooded or wet fields can sign up through mid-July for a federal program that will help them plant cover crops on those acres. 

U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service in Minnesota is offering a special Environmental Quality Incentive Program signup until July 12 to help farmers plant a cover crop as an alternative to letting their crop fields go fallow and uncovered. The cover crop later could be cut for hay or grazed.

Mower County landowners should contact the USDA-NRCS office in Austin to sign up or for more information on the program.

With the program, USDA-NRCS aims to encourage farmers to plant cover crops to increase water quality, suppress weeds and improve soil health on areas not planted to cash crops. Cover crops - which include cereal rye, crimson clover and oilseed radish among numerous others - capture applied nutrients, fix nitrogren, control erosion and can build considerable yield potential for the following cash crops.

Cover crops also bring soil vitality by adding nutrients and organic matter. Many fields saturated for a long time face a loss of soil organisms. Cover crop roots reestablish soil health and create pathways for air and water to move through the soil, which is key to restoring it.

Applications for the special EQIP program will be based on environmental benefits. Landowners should coordinate with other USDA farm agencies when participating in related programs.

Mower County's USDA-NRCS office is at 1408 21st Ave NW in the same building in Austin as USDA's Farm Service Agency and Mower Soil & Water Conservation District.