Dear Governor Culver, Save Our Prairie

Governor Chet Culver has been asked to decide by February 15 if Iowa will participate in the Sodsaver provision of the 2008 Farm Bill. This is not a hard deadline and the program rules have yet to be completed by USDA.
However, should this decision really even be one to grapple with?  

The Sodsaver provision, a provision that would bar crop insurance and disaster payments on native sod that is converted to crops, will be lost if the Governors of the five states involved (IA, SD, ND, MN and MT) fail to participate in this program. If lost that means nothing more than the federal government subsidizing insurance and providing disaster payments to those who put marginal native grassland into production. They will essentially be guaranteed a profit on lands that are simply not suited to producing row crops.

Our most fertile prairie was long ago converted to row crops and the native grasslands that still remain are among the planet's most threatened ecosystems. They are vital to the livelihoods of grazing and grass-based producers. Ranch families cannot compete for land when grassland conversion to program crops receives federal payments ensuring a profit regardless of whether crops thrive or fail.

So the question the Governor should be asking is, "What good could come from tearing up the remainder of the native grasslands left in our state?" The answer is obvious - nothing would be gained but much would be lost.

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