LEADS – Cover Crops


A Farmland Health Check-Up (FHCU) is required to apply for LEADS. A FHCU provides a unique opportunity to work with a CCA or P.Ag at no cost to the producer. It will assess three key fields on your farm to establish both baseline farmland health levels and targets. Click here for a list of CCAs or P.Ags.

Stream: Producer



Projects will focus on the use of specific cover crops to protect soil from erosion, enhance soil organic matter, and provide undisturbed cover over winter and early spring months.

Who should apply?

Producers who have not left cover crops undisturbed throughout the winter more than three times in the past five years.

To apply you must:

  • Have a Verified Complete 4th Edition Environmental Farm Plan
  • Be located within the Lake Erie or Lake St. Clair watersheds
  • Have a completed Farmland Health Check-Up, working with a participating Certified Crop Advisor or Professional Agrologist
Have you completed an Environmental Farm Plan?
Having a verified complete 4th Edition Environmental Farm Plan is required to apply for all Environmental Stewardship Project Categories. If you haven’t completed one, sign up online here.

Eligible activities and expenditures:

  • Cost of seed for cover crops seeded across an entire field to provide undisturbed cover over winter months (e.g. red clover, oilseed radish, mixtures)
  • Cost of seed for cover crops seeded in priority erosion prone areas (e.g. areas prone to water erosion, knolls on sandy soils) to provide undisturbed cover over winter months
  • Cost of seed for cover crops that are harvested or grazed, provided a minimum of 6 inches (15 cm) of cover crop growth is left intact over winter
  • Costs of planting cover crop incurred by the producer (in-kind) or custom applied (dedicated pass only)
  • In-kind contribution to a maximum of $2,000

Ineligible activities and expenditures:

  • All ineligible activities and expenditures as detailed in the Program Requirements
  • Costs for cover crops where growing and leaving cover crops undisturbed over-winter is a routine practice that has been used by the farm business more than three times over the last five years
  • Costs associated with mechanical or chemical termination of the cover crop
  • Fertilizer and crop protection costs
  • Crops that will be harvested or grazed leaving less than 6 inches (15 cm) of cover crop growth over winter or cover crops that will be fall tilled
  • Alfalfa seed, winter wheat seed or seed for other commodity crops
  • Seed mixes containing invasive plant species (see invadingspecies.com/plants/)
  • Equipment purchase or modification costs
  • Seed produced by the farm business applying for funding

Available Cost-share:

45, 55, 65 per cent, up to a maximum of $20,000

Required Documentation:

  • A Certificate of Completion for a 4th Edition Environmental Farm Plan
  • A copy of your Farmland Health Check-Up must be submitted to OSCIA

Other useful information:

  • Applicants may be eligible to receive funding for cover crops up to three times on the same fields (separate applications must be submitted for each program year)
  • A dated photograph of the cover crop established in the field will be required as part of the claim
  • An additional 5 per cent in cost-share funding is available to successful producers who provide information on the application, which demonstrates that the project will be complemented or enhanced by the continued maintenance of previously implemented BMPs. For more information, click here.

What's Next?

Is this project for you? Find out if you meet the program requirements
Program Requirements


For more information on upcoming application intakes, visit ontariosoilcrop.org

Any established farm business that is a legal entity and produces agricultural commodities in the Lake Erie and/or the Lake St. Clair watersheds under a valid Farm Business Registration Number (FBRN), or an allowable exemption, is eligible to apply for cost-share funding under LEADS — provided that your farm business meets all of the requirements set out in the Program Guide. You must also have a Farmland Health Check-Up, a current Environmental Farm Plan, and a valid and up-to-date Premises Identification Number for the farm property where the project is to take place.

In addition, you are required to be in compliance with all Requirements of the Law and remain in compliance for the duration of the project.

You must also be undertaking an eligible project that is located within the Lake Erie or Lake St. Clair watersheds. To determine if your farm business, where the project will be undertaken, is located within the Lake Erie or Lake St. Clair watersheds please use the interactive map hosted on the OSCIA website.

A farm business may submit up to three applications to LEADS for consideration at one time for the 2019-2020 program year. A farm business may have up to three 2019-20 approved LEADS cost-share projects underway at one time. Applications will continue to be accepted until the funds for the 2019-2020 year are fully allocated. Eligible projects must be new to the farm business, unless otherwise indicated in the project category description. A separate application must be submitted for each project.

Projects submitted to LEADS cannot receive funding from any other Partnership program.

LEADS supports a merit-based allocation of funding. Eligible projects will be awarded a level of funding that reflects the priority identified by the Farmland Health Check-Up.

Applications will be processed in the order in which they are received until the available funding is fully allocated. Applications are evaluated based only on the information submitted and will not
be considered if they do not meet eligibility criteria or if they are incomplete.

Applications for LEADS will be accepted on a continuous basis beginning March 22, 2019.

Applications are submitted electronically*. You can apply and submit all required documentation at ontarioprograms.net.

You can also complete the Application Form for the Project Category you are applying under, and submit with all required documentation by email to LEADS@ontariosoilcrop.org. Copies of Application Forms are availableat ontarioprogramguides.net.

*If you cannot apply online, you may send hard copy applications and all required documentation to OSCIA by post or courier to 1 Stone Road West, Guelph ON N1G 4Y2.

You will be notified by mail once your application has been reviewed and a decision has been made—approximately 20 business days from the date that your completed application is received by OSCIA. There are three possible outcomes:

  • Application is approved – you will receive a letter confirming the amount of funding allocated to your project, as well as information about any specific requirement of this funding.
  • Application is conditionally approved – you will be notified about what additional information is required to finalize approval of your project.
  • Application is declined – you will receive a brief explanation for the decision.

The start date for your project is the date on the Approval or Conditional Approval Letter issued by OSCIA for each successful project. Projects cannot be started before this date. Eligible costs can only be incurred, invoiced and paid for by the applicant after the date on which the Letter is issued.

The completion date for your project will be specified in the Approval Letter issued by OSCIA for the successful project. Eligible costs must be incurred, invoiced and paid for by the applicant on or before this completion date.

Cost-share levels are determined by the risk rating identified within your completed Farmland Health Check-Up:

    Farmland Health Check-Up Rating: Poor
    Farmland Health Check-Up Rating: Fair
    Farmland Health Check-Up Rating: Good or Best, or a project on an unassessed field

Projects being implemented on multiple fields are evaluated on a field-by-field basis. Each field may receive a different level of cost-share based on the risks and priorities identified in your Farmland Health Check-Up.

The maximum LEADS funding available is $20,000 per application. Please note that equipment purchases are limited to the moderate funding level (55%), or base funding level (45%), regardless of risk rating. This includes all projects under the following categories:

  • Equipment Modifications to Improve Manure Application
  • Tillage and Nutrient Application Equipment Modifications
  • Equipment Modi cations to Reduce Soil Compaction

New producers are new entrants to the agricultural production industry who:

  • File personal income taxes in Ontario
  • Have proof of ownership or control of productive agricultural assets to generate farm income
  • Have a valid and up-to-date Premises Identification Number for the farm property where the proposed project is to take place
  • Have not had more than $7,000 in gross farm income two and three years prior to enrolling in the Partnership
  • Have business projections that demonstrate potential annual gross business income of $7,000 or more within three years of applying

If you are a new producer, contact OSCIA at 1-800-265-9751 or LEADS@ontariosoilcrop.org for a list of applicable Project Categories, and to request a copy of the New Producer Application Form.

Edit date: May 23, 2019

Need Help?

For assistance with the Online Program Guide, please contact the Agricultural Information Contact Centre – Mon. to Fri., 8 am – 5 pm, 1-877-424-1300 or ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca