Senators Introduce Bill to Protect Prime Grasslands
April 25th, 2013
On Thursday, April 25, Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), along with four additional cosponsors, introduced bipartisan legislation that would protect our nation’s remaining native prairies and prime grasslands.
Additional cosponsors of the bill include Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Mike Johanns (R-NE).
The Sodsaver Prairie Protection Act of 2013 (S. 801) creates a nationwide provision to ensure that taxpayer dollars do not continue to subsidize the destruction of native grass and prairie lands. These lands are rapidly disappearing, leaving behind fewer ranching opportunities, weaker ecosystems, reduced hunting opportunities, greater soil erosion, and net economic losses for rural communities.
The Sodsaver Prairie Protection Act will preserve grasslands by prohibiting federal commodity payments on newly broken native sod, and by reducing federal subsidies for crop and revenue insurance by 50 percentage points on those acres.
The bill also includes two important provisions that prevent gaming of the system to increase revenue insurance coverage at the expense of taxpayers and the environment. One keeps a producer’s newly broken sod isolated from other crop acres when calculating insurable yields. The other requires the operator to take a percentage of the county average yield until being able to show a multi-year yield history.
Senator Thune championed an similar provision in last year’s Senate-passed “Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act.” In February, Representatives Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Tim Walz (D-MN) introduced nearly identical legislation in the House. The only difference between the two bills is that the Senate version requires USDA to report on annual losses of native prairie, whereas the House bill requires USDA to report on land use change, with no specific reference to prairie loss.
We applaud the cosponsors of the Sodsaver Prairie Protection Act for their leadership in preserving grazing land, hunting opportunities, and critical natural resources. We strongly urge the Senate Agriculture Committee to include this national “Sodsaver” provision in the 2013 Farm Bill.