A study by Iowa State University compared farmers' costs and revenues from fields where they used cover crops and from fields without cover crops. Researchers found substantial variability in net returns, driven by the costs of planting and terminating cover crops, feed cost savings from grazing cover crops, cost-share program payments, and the difference in yields obtained in fields with and without cover crops. They found that although cost-share payments were critical to support the practice of cover cropping, the cost-share payments were insufficient to cover all costs of cover crops. However, farmers who grazed livestock on cover crops or harvested their cover crops for forage or biomass generated sufficient additional revenue or cost savings to result in overall positive returns when cost-share payments were also utilized. Budgets developed in this study did not account for long-term soil health or water quality benefits associated with cover crop use.
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