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Sodsaver Provision Must Be National, Not Regional

Photo courtesy Mark Lehigh / Flickr Creative Commons

Pheasants and other grassland-dwelling birds would benefit from a national sodsaver provision. Photo courtesy Mark Lehigh / Flickr Creative Commons

Editor’s Note: Pheasants Forever joined other conservation groups in sending the following letter to Congressional and Senate and House Ag Committee leadership.

Dear Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Reid, Minority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Pelosi, Chairman Lucas, Chairwoman Stabenow, Ranking Member Peterson, and Ranking Member Cochran:

As the House and Senate begin conferencing the 2013 Farm Bill, the undersigned groups, representing millions of producers, sportsmen and women and other conservationists, and wildlife scientists ask that you complete a conference report with strong conservation provisions and urge you to pass a five-year Farm Bill as soon as possible. Our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and landowners deserve to have long-term certainty to effectively and efficiently manage their land, resources and businesses for the years ahead. This important legislation supports our nation’s farmers, ranchers, forest owners, food security, natural resources and wildlife habitats, rural communities, and the 16 million Americans whose jobs directly depend on the agriculture industry as well as our $145 billion wildlife recreation economy.

We specifically endorse a strong Title II in the Farm Bill. The farm bill represents the single largest federal investment in private-lands conservation. It funds programs that improve air and water quality, recharge groundwater aquifers, and create fish and wildlife habitat; thereby providing meaningful benefits to all Americans and taxpayers. Not only do Farm Bill conservation programs play a key role in supporting clean air, clean water and productive soils, they also help producers avoid unnecessary regulation and promote our nation’s long-term economic and food security.

We strongly support the Senate’s national sodsaver provision to reduce incentives for grassland conversion, while still allowing landowners to make their own management decisions. Sodsaver would help preserve our remaining prairies and significant grasslands for both the ranching communities and wildlife that depend on them, and save taxpayers nearly $200 million over a 10 year period. While the House Farm Bill currently includes a regional sodsaver provision, we believe that only a national policy, such as included in the Senate bill, would be effective.

We also strongly support re-linking conservation compliance to crop insurance premium assistance and oppose efforts to weaken conservation compliance in current law. For decades, in exchange for a publicly funded safety net, farmers have adopted land management practices that successfully reduced soil erosion and protected wetlands. Recoupling will ensure that decades of conservation gains are not lost. As federal crop insurance emerges as the central part of the farm safety net, we also oppose any provisions that provide for means testing, reduce premium assistance, or impose payment limitations on crop insurance premium assistance or indemnities. We believe that including these priorities in a 2013 Farm Bill will result in an effective farm and natural resource safety net.

Furthermore, we are concerned that if the 2013 Farm Bill’s Title I is made permanent, reauthorization of other important programs will be at risk if the bill expires after five years. If this should occur and we revert to “permanent” law, then programs covering conservation, forestry, research, energy, rural development, and horticulture could be left to the will of the appropriations process, likely with limited funding and little opportunity to address policy changes. We request equal treatment of the titles.

Thank you very much for your attention to these pressing conservation issues, and our overall request is that you complete the 2013 Farm Bill this year.

The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Governmental Relations.

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