Bill Could Prevent Farmers from Needlessly Destroying Prairies

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.”


Related Reading:

Bringing Back The Grassland Birds

Saving And Rebuilding Our Soil

End Buffalo Slaughter Say Native Americans (Video)


Image via Thinkstock


orv lehman
Orval lehman6 years ago

go vegan, stop the ranchers from grazing on federal lands while we're at it too

Mary B.
Mary B6 years ago

I'm surprised that anyone has to be reminded that 'farmers' are not all alike, and anyone who would do this kind of destruction to the pairies can not be considered a farmer. They are opportunists who understand little about the importance of natural eco systems and they should outlaw this practice totally,and stop any further subsidies to any farms except the small organic farmers. If we want enough good food to feed every body then give money to the people who are growing good, safe food, not the giants who flood the markets.

Jane Warren
Jane Warren6 years ago

thnx for this

Violet Sunderland

I hope at least a few who read this article has seen the old movie, "Grapes of Wrath" or read the book, and hopefully watched the recent PBS documentary about the Dust Bowl. My forbears came from S. Dak long before the dust bowl but a brother of my grandfather's was in Kansas and came west because of it. My late husband was from Wyoming and told about the dust his family experienced as it blew their way. Growing up, I knew many who came west and there were many still following the crop harvests through most of my school years. It took a couple of decades for them to get re-established and accustomed to a different way of life. I wish Kim W's post hadn't been cut off because she definitely knows what it's all about and it isn't as if a farmer/rancher takes up his total land with buildings. Their residences and outbuildings represent maybe one acre and the rest is where their business is done, frugally and carefully so as not to damage it or render it useless.

Tim C.
Tim C6 years ago


Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra6 years ago

Thank you Beth, for Sharing this!

Ron B.
Ron B6 years ago

The POP Act? Absolutely pass it and help preserve the tiny fraction of native prairies that remain after humans finished destroyed the vast majority that used to exist.

Ernie Miller
william Miller6 years ago

good start but they left a big loop hole it should be 7 yrs just like organic farming.

Beth M.
Beth M6 years ago

But will it pass?

John chapman
John chapman6 years ago

I guess the Cattlemen were right when they were running off the sod busters, in all those movies.