WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 14, 2013 -- American Farmland Trust (AFT) commends Representatives Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.) for today introducing the Protect Our Prairies Act, HR 686.
“This bill is a commonsense approach to conservation,” said Jon Scholl, president of AFT. “It provides needed protection of sensitive lands while retaining landowner decision-making ability.”
The Protect Our Prairies Act is identical to a provision offered last year, which gained broad bi-partisan support. This bill curbs incentives to convert native grasslands into crop production by appropriately bringing crop insurance subsidies in line with the actual productive capacity of newly converted lands. Newly converted lands are less productive and more prone to erosion.
The measure has three parts that apply for the first four years of crop insurance coverage. Crop insurance coverage is limited to 65 percent of the registered Transitional Yield (T-Yield), i.e. the projected yield used in actuarial tables until there is an established crop yield. Second, the federal subsidy for crop insurance premiums is limited to 50 percent of what they would otherwise be under the federal crop insurance program. Third, and finally, newly converted acreage would be ineligible for yield substitution, meaning a farmer could not apply the historic yield from high-producing existing acreage to the newly converted acres.
“We look forward to working with Representatives Noem and Walz to move this “sodsaver” provision forward into the 2013 farm bill,” said Scholl. “We were pleased when last year’s Senate-passed farm bill included sodsaver provisions, and we encourage the Agriculture Committees to adopt this proposal in full.”
“It’s the right step,” Scholl continued. “It encourages good farming practices, but is not regulatory in nature. Farmers will retain land management rights, taxpayers will save $200 million, and sportsmen will continue to benefit from maintaining wildlife habitat. Moreover, grazing acres will be preserved for ranchers and dairies during a period of high feed prices.”