Protect Our Prairies Act introduced
Representatives Noem, Walz and Fortenberry creators of the sodsaver bill
Wednesday, February 20, 2013 3:01 AM
Representatives Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Tim Walz (D-MN) as well as six additional bipartisan co-sponsors, including Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), introduced legislation to protect America's remaining native prairies and prime grasslands - the "Protect Our Prairies Act." It creates a nationwide "sodsaver" provision that would ensure that taxpayer dollars do not continue to subsidize the destruction of native grass and prairie lands.
Protect Our Prairies Act is said to be policy that will promote common sense conservation practices that will support native grasslands, farmers, wildlife and outdoor recreation.
"Prairie and native grasslands are disappearing rapidly, leaving behind fewer ranching opportunities, diminished hunting, greater soil erosion and other economic and environmental losses for rural communities," said Traci Bruckner, Assistant Policy Director at the Center for Rural Affairs. "And the Protect Our Prairies Act will protect those grasslands by prohibiting federal commodity payments on newly broken native sod and by reducing federal crop insurance premium subsidies by fifty percent on those acres."
According to Bruckner, the bill also includes two provisions that close loopholes in the system and prevent efforts to increase revenue insurance coverage at the expense of taxpayers and the environment. The bill would require that newly broken sod be isolated from other crop acres when calculating insurable yields. And operators would be required to take a percentage of the county average yield for any newly broken native sod until they are able to show a multi-year yield history. Bruckner notes that these two provisions are crucial to removing the federally subsidized incentive to bust up native grassland.
"Coming from a state that has both a strong hunting tradition and agriculture community, this legislation helps continue the healthy balance between production and conservation," said Representative Noem. "I was proud to introduce this legislation last Congress and am optimistic that we will see the bill move forward this year. Not only will it save taxpayer money, but the Protect our Prairies Act will allow us to maintain secure habitats for wildlife in South Dakota."
"The Protect Our Prairies Act accomplishes priorities for farmers, sportsmen, and taxpayers," said Representative Walz, the Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry. "By working together and promoting common sense conservation practices we can support our farmers, protect critical wildlife habitat, and support the hunting and fishing industry that is an integral part of our state's economy."
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the national provision will save taxpayers nearly $200 million over the next ten years.
An identical provision to Protect Our Prairies, championed by Senator John Thune (R-SD), was included in the Senate-passed "Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act" last year, and is expected to remain in the Senate bill as the process begins again this year.
Additional cosponsors of the bill include House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN), Rep. Bennie Thompson (R-MS), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), and Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA).