Recent USDA data finds that, in 2012 alone, nearly 400,000 acres of grassland and other newly broken land were converted to cropland nationally. Nebraska led the way with over 54,000 acres of new land broken out for cropland.
Analysis from the Center for Rural Affairs of the Farm Service Agency data, collected for the first time in 2012, reveals the importance of including a national Sodsaver provision in the Farm Bill that would help address the significant loss of grasslands by ratcheting down subsidized crop insurance on cropland converted from native prairie.
The Senate’s Farm Bill includes a national Sodsaver provision. The House version includes a Sodsaver provision as well, but it is limited to the portions of five states that are in the Prairie Pothole Region of the Northern Great Plains.
The Center’s analysis, however, demonstrates that of the five states with the most acres of land converted - Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, Florida and Iowa - only two have small portions of the state in that region. Most of the states near the top of the list, and a majority of converted acres, are outside that region.
This data could not be more timely for the farm bill debate, nor could it more clearly make the case for a national Sodsaver provision. Limiting Sodsaver to the five state Prairie Pothole Region would provide inadequate protection for native grassland. That’s why the Senate’s Sodsaver provision should be the one included in the final Farm Bill.
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