WASHINGTON, April 24, 2013- Senator John Thune, R-S.D., and Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., today introduced “sodsaver” legislation that modifies crop insurance premium assistance for insured crops grown on native sod converted to cropland.
The Congressional Budget Office projects the Sodsaver Prairie Protection Act to save taxpayers $200 million over 10 years “and would encourage conservation of grasslands that pheasants, ducks, and other wildlife use as a habitat,” according to the senators’ announcement. Groups supporting the bill include the National Farmers Union, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP).
This legislation is intended to close a loophole, known as “yield substitution,” that allows producers to use historical yields from other more productive land on their newly broken ground.
“This bill in no way prohibits a producer’s right to convert sod or longstanding grasslands to cropland, instead it simply prevents the less productive converted native sod from being insured the same as land that has been improved and farmed for several years,” Thune said.
According to Tom Franklin, TRCP senior director of science and policy, the legislation “reduces inappropriate government incentives for cultivating native prairie habitat that supports a great diversity of wildlife and some of the best remaining hunting and fishing opportunities in the Great Plains.”
Thune and Klobuchar’s legislation would cut the premium subsidy in half on native sod and land that a producer cannot prove has ever been tilled. The bill also reduces the maximum allowable indemnity.
Cosponsors include Senators Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Mike Johanns, R-Neb.
Steve Kline, director of the TRCP Center for Agricultural and Private Lands, encouraged the inclusion of sodsaver language in the next farm bill, because it "helps strengthen the farm safety net by assuring that limited federal funds are used to sustain the most traditionally productive acres.”
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