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Field Notes

Now Open for Enrollment: EECO Pilot Program

For the most up-to-date version of EECO enrollment (2/2024) find the flier here or enroll here.

Eligible Minnesota growers can now enroll in the Forever Green EECO Implementation Program. This program supports the early commercial success and environmental benefits of the continuous living cover crops and cropping systems being developed by the University of Minnesota Forever Green Initiative, including Kernza® perennial grain.

The program is funded by the State of Minnesota’s Clean Water Fund (CWF), was developed in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), and will be implemented by UMN Forever Green staff along with the support of key institutional and local partners across the State.

The program prioritizes multi-County regions across MN that have been dubbed Economic and Environmental Clusters of Opportunity, or EECOs. This regional strategy will:

  • Site early commercial Kernza® production in areas with vulnerable groundwater, thereby maximizing water quality benefits of Kernza®
  • Achieve economic efficiencies in production, logistics, etc. that will support commercial success
  • Encourage development of related supply chains and markets in these areas
  • Foster community stewardship and leadership around these Forever Green crops
  • Drive the economic, environmental, and social benefits of these new crops to rural Minnesota communities


The pilot program targets four areas of Minnesota, plus all Tribal Nations, for expanded Continuous Living Cover (CLC) production, including the following counties:

  • Western: Becker, Big Stone, Chippewa, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Kittson, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, Mahnomen, Marshall, Murray, Nobles, Norman, Otter Trail, Pennington, Pipestone, Polk, Pope, Red Lake, Rock, Stevens, Swift, Traverse, Wilkin, Yellow Medicine
  • Northwest: Lake of the Woods, Roseau
  • Central: Benton, Cass, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Isanti, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Wright
  • Southeast: Dakota, Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Le Seur, Mower, Nicollet, Olmsted, Rice, Steele, Wabasha, Winona, Waseca
  • All Tribal Nations & Communities w/Enrolled Acres within Boundaries of the State of MN: Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Leech Lake Land of Ojibwe, Lower Sioux Indian Community, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Prairie Island Indian Community, Red Lake Nation, Shakopee, Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Upper Sioux Community, White Earth Nation

*Growers near but outside the boundaries of these counties will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. 

Top priority will be given to commercial row crop acres located in Drinking Water Source Management Areas (DWSMAs) or Wellhead Protection Areas (WHPAs).

To see whether you farm in a DWSMA or WHPA, enter your address in this mapGrowers located in EECO counties but not in DWSMAs or WHPAs are still eligible. For those growers within DWSMAs or WHPAs, a 25% premium will be included in the ecosystem service payment.


Ecosystem Service and Risk-Sharing Payments for Growers in the Implementation Program

The Forever Green EECO Implementation Program includes a de-risking payment program for enrolled growers:

  • Ecosystem service payments range from $25-50 per acre per year for perennials (Kernza) based on field specific nitrate leaching reductions as modeled by the USDA Nutrient Tracking Tool.
  • Economic risk payments up to 50% of the cost of production in the event of on-farm or market failure. This is an outcomes-based and crop-specific payment triggered in the event of loss, much like insurance, though with no premium. Documentation of on-farm or market failure must be included in order to receive payout. If a crop succeeds in the market bringing in returns above the cost of production, there is no economic risk payout. Cost of production will be based on a standardized enterprise budget using publicly available county-specific average land rental rates.


In addition to financial support, the program contains Technical Assistance (TA), which includes grower-to-grower, community- based, and university-based TA providers as well as written and recorded resources. This expansion of the EECO program now includes support from a full-time Perennial Grains and Winter Annuals Agronomy Specialist. Non-enrolled growers may access technical assistance support, but enrolled growers will be given priority. Modest additional support is available through the program for mobile grain drying units, grain testing services, targeted market research, and remote and in-person events.



Eligible growers can enroll simply and smoothly at the following link: Forever Green EECO Implementation Program Enrollment. A printable program flier can be downloaded here.

To enroll, use this link to fill out the EECO Grower Enrollment Form before planting an EECO eligible crop.

To enroll a Kernza field in this program, you must be a registered Kernza grower. Kernza stands will be eligible for program enrollment for each stand’s first three years of production. Existing plantings will be eligible. Note that Kernza seed is still somewhat limited, markets are still in their early phase of development, and licensing guidelines remain strict. The first step is to apply to be a Kernza grower with The Land Institute, which you can do by clicking this link.



UMN Forever Green and pilot implementation program funders are eager for local EECO regions to leverage this policy to advance local efforts, policy innovation, market development, community support, and resource development (i.e. fundraising). UMN also welcomes community input on how you want the work in each EECO to take shape and how local leaders can play a facilitating role. The public sector can share risk and universities can provide support, but the success of new continuous living cover crops will depend on creative and sustained partnership among growers, industry, consumers, and local partners.

If involved partners can demonstrate success in this model, UMN Forever Green is hopeful a strong case can be made to expand and replicate this program model for wider adoption of Kernza® perennial grain and other rapidly advancing continuous living cover crops and cropping systems including winter camelina, pennycress, hybrid hazelnuts, perennial flax, silphium, winter barley, and more. We hope that this model of State investment, University support, local leadership, and risk-sharing can be a model for advancing environmental and economic solutions in Upper Midwestern US agriculture.



For more information and to enroll:

Sienna Nesser, UMN Forever Green CLC Adoption Specialist, 612-644-5032 or

Matt Leavitt, UMN Forever Green Perennial Grains and Winter Annuals Agronomy Specialist, 612-381-6199 or

Growers interested in talking with other growers about Kernza production and marketing:

Carmen Fernholz, 320-212-3008 or

Alan Kraus, 507-786-3913 or

EECO Program design, management, expansion:

Colin Cureton, UMN Forever Green Director of Adoption and Scaling, 612-750-4967 or