January 30, 2018
Earlier this month, roughly 200 conservation, agriculture, wildlife, taxpayer and sportsmen organizations signed on to a letter of support for the American Prairies Conservation Act (S. 1913, H.R. 3939), introduced by Senators John Thune (R-SD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Representatives Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Tim Walz (D-MN). This critical piece of legislation expands and improves a grassland conservation provision known as “Sodsaver,” which was first included in the 2008 Farm Bill and was strengthened in the 2014 Farm Bill.
Sodsaver limits the loss of native grasslands by reducing federal subsidies for crop insurance premiums on acres that are converted from prairie to cropland. By reducing the federal premium subsidy, Sodsaver puts the risk of producing crops on converted prairie back in the hands of the farmers doing the conversion.
The current version of Sodsaver applies to six states – Nebraska, Iowa, Montana, Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota. The American Prairies Conservation Act would extend the provision to the entire country, including areas in Texas, Kansas, and other states that are experiencing some of the highest grassland loss rates.
The letter, addressed to House and Senate Agriculture Committee leadership, states:
The 2014 Farm Bill included a Sodsaver provision that reduces crop insurance premium subsidies on newly broken native sod, ensuring that taxpayer dollars do not create incentives for more native prairie land to be plowed under. Most of the land that is currently being converted from native ecosystems to cropland is marginal, highly erodible, or prone to flooding. These environmentally sensitive lands provide critical ecological services, including habitat for grassland-dependent wildlife species, flood mitigation, erosion control, water filtration, and other ecological benefits. In addition to providing ecosystem services, native grasslands are a critical resource for American ranchers[…]
The undersigned organizations applaud Senators Thune, Klobuchar, Rounds, and Bennet and Representatives Noem and Walz for their leadership in preserving grazing land, ranching opportunities, and critical wildlife habitat and other natural resources through the American Prairies Conservation Act. We strongly urge you to include this provision in the 2018 Farm Bill.
The destruction of native prairies for crop production results in fewer ranching and hunting opportunities, weaker ecosystems, increased soil erosion, and decreased revenue for rural communities. In addition to extending Sodsaver protections to the entire country, the American Prairies Conservation Act stems grassland loss by:
We hope that a national Sodsaver provision will be included in the 2018 Farm Bill and look forward to working on this issue with members of Congress and with the hundreds of organizations that have joined in support of the American Prairies Conservation Act.
For more information on the American Prairies Conservation Act, visit NSAC’s Farm Bill Campaign page. While the sign-on letter has already been delivered, organizations that wish to show their support may still sign on here.