A new conservation act was introduced this week to expand the 2014 Farm Bill “Sodsaver” provision from only six states to nationwide.
The American Prairies Conservation Act, a bipartisan bill introduced 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 the nation’s remaining native prairies and prime grasslands in the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill.
Sodsaver, available in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota, reduces federal premium subsidies for crop insurance by 50 percentage points on land where native sod has been plowed for crop planting. By expanding Sodsaver to include the southern plains, the American Prairies Conservation Act will help to protect native sod in areas with some of the highest grassland loss rates nationwide.
“America is rapidly losing our few remaining areas of native prairie and grassland,” said Kanika Gandhi, Policy Specialist for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). “As these lands are plowed and converted to crops, we systematically weaken our ecosystems and reduce ranching and hunting opportunities. The American Prairies Conservation Act will help us to conserve these vital areas by reducing taxpayer-subsidized incentives to convert them to cropland.”
In addition to expanding Sodsaver, the American Prairies Conservation Act:
- Closes a loophole from previous legislation that allowed producers to convert native sod to a non-annual crop for 1-4 years in order to transition to an annual crop without being subject to Sodsaver.
- Requires the USDA to track and report on grassland loss through existing crop certification systems.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the American Prairies Conservation Act will save taxpayers $52 million over the next ten years. NSAC strongly urges the both Agriculture Committees to include the Act in the 2018 Farm Bill.