American Prairies Conservation Act


American Prairies Conservation Act, Oglala National Grasslands.

A herd of cattle gather around a stock pond on the vast Oglala National Grasslands. Photo credit: USDA.

The American Prairies Conservation Act

S. 1913/H.R. 3939

The American Prairies Conservation Act of 2017 expands to the entire country a grasslands protection provision known as “Sodsaver,” which currently only applies to six states. The bipartisan bill, which was introduced on October 4, 2017 by Senators John Thune (R-SD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Representatives Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Tim Walz (D-MN) will prioritize and protect our nation’s remaining native prairies and prime grasslands by ensuring that taxpayer dollars do not continue to subsidize the destruction of these critical lands. Representatives Colin Peterson (D-MN) and Rick Crawford (R-AR) have also joined the effort as co-sponsors. Grasslands and prairies are rapidly disappearing in the United States. As these lands disappear, so too do ranching and hunting opportunities, vibrant ecosystems, strong soil systems, and economic opportunities for rural communities.

The American Prairies Conservation Act will preserve grasslands by limiting crop insurance premium subsidies on newly broken native sod. It also directs USDA to collect data and report on grassland loss across the country.

Specifically, the bill:

  • Expands the 2014 Farm Bill’s Sodaver provision to the entire country – the 2014 provision only applies to North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska.
  • Reduces taxpayer subsidies for crop insurance premiums by 50 percentage points on native sod that has been broken for the production of an insurable crop – subsidy reductions apply for the first four years of production.
  • Closes an existing loophole that allows for no reduction in crop insurance subsidies during the first four years of planting an insured crop – under current law, Sodsaver penalties can be avoided if a noninsured crop (e.g. alfalfa) is planted before the insured crop.
  • Requires USDA to track and report on native grassland loss by county – the 2014 Farm Bill requires USDA to track and report on changes in crop production, but not changes in native sod acreage.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the American Prairies Conservation Act of 2017 will save American taxpayers more than $50 million.

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