America’s prairie land once stretched for thousands of acres over more than a dozen states. This unique grassland is a diverse ecosystem where the dense sod acts like a giant sponge, conserving rain water and preventing erosion. Unfortunately, agriculture, ranching and biofuel cultivation are systematically destroying the prairies, reducing biodiversity and eliminating native grasses. And if you pay taxes in America, you’re helping to fund this destruction.
A recently introduced bill known as the “Protect Our Prairies” (POP) Act will ensure that taxpayer dollars do not continue to subsidize the destruction of native grass and prairie lands. The bill would cut $200 million in wasteful federal subsidies that currently encourage farmers to cultivate that native sod and grassland most prone to flood and erosion.
The federal government provides farmers with subsidies and insurance discounts for each acre they cultivate. This provision is meant to provide protection in the event of a failed harvest, but has been grossly exploited. By simply turning over the sod, farmers can claim additional cultivated acreage, and all the federal commodity payments and subsidies that come along with it. This encourages landowners to turn over vast tracks of prairie land even though it takes years to turn sod into fertile growing soil. As a result, prime grasslands are being destroyed, which increases the risk of flood and erosion, and costs taxpayers millions.
The POP Act would prohibit the government from granting commodity payments for newly broken native sod. It would also reduce federal subsidies for crop and revenue insurance by 50 percent until farmers can show a multi-year history of successful harvests.
The bill was introduced by Representatives Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Tim Walz (D-MN), along with six additional cosponsors. If passed, this legislation could save taxpayers nearly $200 million over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate from the 112th Congress.
“We are pleased that Representatives Noem and Walz have renewed their commitment to enacting a nationwide ‘Sodsaver’ provision in 2013,” said Greg Fogel, of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. ”We applaud all the cosponsors of the Protect Our Prairies Act for their leadership in preserving grazing land, hunting opportunities, and critical natural resources. We strongly urge the House Agriculture Committee to include this national ‘Sodsaver’ provision in the 2013 Farm Bill.”
Image via Thinkstock
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