Midterm elections are dominating the news, while Midwest farmers are left guessing when Congress will pass a new farm bill, or at least extend the current bill.

Ryan Stockwell is director of Sustainable Agriculture with the National Wildlife Federation and said he hoped to enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program this year. But he’s now uncertain if that will be possible. He added, “This should be and ought to be a part of the vision for agriculture, wherever you’re sitting. Helping farmers improve profitability while protecting vital natural resources – that should be something that everybody stands up and supports.”

The absence of a farm bill also means enrollment is suspended in the Conservation Reserve Program.

Tom Cotter farms 1,100 acres near Rochester and has had great success with cover crops in the past 20 years. He said he relied on federal funds to get started, and while there was a big learning curve, it has been worth it. “Farming with cover crops is like checkers and chess,” Cotter explained, “You know, the old way of farming was checkers, real easy; we could use our chemical. But now, when you’re doing cover crops, you have to start thinking more.”

He initially used cover crops to help with weed suppression, but Cotter now also relies on them as a conservation measure to curb soil erosion, curtail nutrient loss and conserve water. “I’d say for the last five, six years we took all that knowledge and really starting implementing it on every acre, every year. And then now, we put in the no-till and strip-till in it, too,” he explained.

It’s possible Congress may take up farm bill discussions after the midterm elections in about three weeks.