Dane County’s Continuous Cover Program Achieves Great Success in First Year, Funding to Double in 2020

October 08, 2019
Ariana Vruwink, (608) 267-8823
County Executive

More Than 500 Acres of Dane County Cropland to be Converted to Continuous, Perennial Cover to Help Preserve Small Family Farms, Rural Lands

Today, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced more than 500 acres of annual row crops will be converted into continuous, perennial cover in Dane County thanks to the success of its Continuous Cover Program. Designed to reduce run-off, enhance carbon sequestration, and preserve rural character, interest in the county’s brand-new effort was overwhelming. The 23 landowners set to benefit from the program’s first cycle belong to 15 different townships and 10 watersheds.

The Continuous Cover Program started with $750,000 plus funding from the Yahara CLEAN budget. Thanks to the program’s success, County Executive Parisi’s 2020 budget will double the program’s funding to take advantage of a broader willingness by a number of Dane County property owners to enter into long-term agreements to seed down their lands with continuous cover grasses and prairies.

“I’m including $1.5 million in my 2020 budget to increase access to the Continuous Cover Program so Dane County can continue to give small family farms and other rural property owners the opportunity to protect the character of their land while making it less susceptible to flooding,” said Parisi. “The conversion of cropland to perennial grasses will increase water infiltration, improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, and enhance wildlife habitat practices, all while helping farmers as they continue to face economic hardship.”

The benefits of the Continuous Cover Program include reducing phosphorus and carbon emissions, protecting lands for conservation in the face of expanding development pressures, and promoting habitats good for pollinators who continue to face adversity from challenges like pesticides and climate change. It offers landowners/farmers a tool to diversify or address marginally productive lands. Not only does this program address environmentally sensitive areas, but it also helps protect small farms and rural lands.

Dane County’s Land and Water Resources Department held an application sign-up period from April 15th through May 31st for the program’s first year.  Nearly 60 applications were received encompassing approximately 1,000 acres proposed to be converted to continuous cover through a variety of practices including: prescribed grazing, pasture establishment, cool season grass establishment, native prairie, and pollinator habitat.  Landowners and farmers that enroll in the program commit to keeping and maintaining their land in the perennial cover for at least 15 years. 

To learn more about Dane County’s Continuous Cover Program, visit https://lcd-lwrd.countyofdane.com/Continuous-Cover-Program, or call the Dane County Land and Water Resources Department at (608) 224-3730.

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