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Washington County leads in Cover Crops and CRP

Washington County has been a leader in both livestock production and in conservation practices. This is a unique position in Iowa, and the Midwest.

The USDA Natural Resource and Conservation Service (NRCS) just released cover crop planting data for 2016, and Washington County is the leading county in Iowa with 21,353 acres planted in "cover crops" using federal or state incentives and planning assistance. These programs include the the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

According to the 2012 Ag Census, Washington County had 222,000 acres planted in corn, soybeans, or other annual grain crops, which is about average in Iowa. That means that 10% of all crop acres in Washington County were planted in cover crops over the winter in 2016.

Cover crop planting is on the rise. Iowa saw an increase of 18% to 353,000 acres in planted cover crops from 2015 to 2016. Washington County's 21,353 acres accounts for 6% of all the cover crops in Iowa.

ISU Extension has a lot of articles about using cover crops and their impacts.

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

Back in 2014, I wrote about Washington County as the #1 CRP county in Iowa. Acres enrolled in CRP is another measure of conservation practices in a county. At that time, Washington and Keokuk Counties were #1 and #2 in CRP acres.

In 2016, Washington ranks #6 in CRP acres in Iowa with 37,655 acres enrolled, a slight increase over 2013's 37,042 which was top in the state. Keokuk County ranks just ahead at #5 with 37,929 acres.

Three of the top 5 counties are along the southern Iowa border with Missouri and are not big agricultural counties, but they do have a lot of sensitive land - Ringold, Taylor, and Wayne Counties. The other top CRP county is Clayton County in Northeast Iowa, which is physically very large, but average in crop production acres. None of these counties are planting very many acres of cover crops (check the map above).

Washington County is a major hog production county, as well as turkeys and goats. It also is a major organic crop producer. In each of these categories, Washington County sets itself apart as being not only a top ag production county, but also a top conservation county with more cover crops and CRP than any other county.


Compared to the other counties in Iowa's Creative Corridor and other East Central Iowa counties, Washington County is far and away the leading conservation county, with significantly more cover crop and CRP acres than any other county.