USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) has announced that farmers will be allowed to plant cover crops for haying or grazing without affecting crop insurance on that ground.

Policy holders may be required to stop haying or grazing in the spring and will be required to terminate the cover crop. RMA will release more information about this policy in November. Planting a cover crop may help ease the forage shortage for cattle producers this fall.

Forty six agricultural organizations have joined forces to push congress to pass a new farm bill before the end of September. The coalition, called Farm Bill Now, is made up of groups representing crops, livestock, state and local governments, energy and biobased product groups cooperatives and financial groups.

The coalition contends that the farm bill is really a food bill, a conservation bill, a research bill, an energy bill and a trade bill. The farm bill affects all Americans and the agriculture industry provides 23 million American jobs. The Farm Bill Now coalition launched an interactive web portal at Visitors to the site can connect to their members of Congress to show their support for a new five-year farm bill.

The future of the new farm bill is far from clear but most observers think it is unlikely that Congress will pass the new legislation before the 2008 bill expires at the end of September. Instead, Congress would probably pass a short-term extension of the current law. Several members of Congress say they oppose an extension, but with the House only in session for 8 days during September it may be the only available option.

Without some action by Congress the livestock sector will continue to suffer. The resulting cuts in cattle, dairy and hog sectors will have implications that extend for years beyond the end of the drought.

Farmers who normally sell at least half of their crops in the year following harvest may be able to push taxes for crop insurance payouts into 2013, even if you receive the check before the end of the year. You can’t split the insurance payments into two parts but you may be able to count it as revenue in either 2012 or 2013. This is allowed under section 451(d) of the tax code. If you don’t actually get the insurance money until 2013, it will be income for next year.

Consult your tax professional if delaying the income into 2013 makes sense for your operation. Biofuel industry representatives are fighting back against the requests for EPA to waive or reduce the RFS ethanol mandate. Leaders of groups representing the advanced biofuel industry say the requested waivers could have a chilling effect on the investment in the next generation of biofuels.

They claim a change in policy for a given year can affect production for many years into the future. Representatives of the grain-based ethanol industry are also taking action to try to head off a waiver. Leaders of ethanol industry groups have sent letters to the Obama Administration and to the governors requesting the waivers trying to “clarify a debate that has been riddled with distorted truths and misinformation”. They say waiving the RFS would lead to higher gas prices, more reliance on foreign oil and stifle investment in new advanced biofuels technologies.

Legislation granting Russia Permanent normal trade Relations (PNTR) status is scheduled to be voted on in the House or Representatives on September 12. Last week Russia became a member of the World Trade Organization but Russia does not have to lower tariffs on U.S. goods until Congress approves PNTR. Under rules for this legislation 286 votes or two-thirds of the House must vote in favor for the bill to be approved. Approval of the legislation seems likely. Congress approved PNTR for China when that country became a member of the WTO.