Prairie and native grasslands are disappearing rapidly, taking soil and habitat as well as hunting, ranching and other economic opportunities with them. Congress should ensure that federal farm and crop insurance subsidies don’t exacerbate the loss of these vital natural resources.Fortunately, Reps. Kristi Noem (R-SD), Tim Walz (D-MN) and six bipartisan co-sponsors, including Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), recently introduced legislation that creates a nationwide “sodsaver” law that would slash subsidies that contribute to the destruction of native grassland and prairie.
The Protect Our Prairies Act would prohibit federal payments and reduce crop insurance premium subsidies by 50 percent on newly broken native sod.
The Act also closes loopholes by requiring 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.
These two provisions are crucial to removing the federally subsidized incentive to bust up native grassland.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Protect Our Prairies will save nearly $200 million over the next ten years, tax dollars that will otherwise be spent to destroy remaining prairies and grasslands.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) secured the same provision in the Senate Farm Bill last year, and it is expected to remain in the Senate bill this year.