Recently released USDA Farm Service Agency data demonstrates a rapid conversion of non-cropland to cropland. Center for Rural Affairs analysis of the 2012 data reveals the importance of inclusion of 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.
“This data shows grassland and other newly broken land converted to cropland in 2012 totals nearly 400,000 acres across the country. Nebraska led the way with over 54,000 acres of new land broken out for cropland,” Traci Bruckner, Assistant Director of Rural Policy, Center for Rural Affairs.
According to Bruckner, the Senate version of the 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.
“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,” noted Bruckner. Bruckner continued, “Of the five states with the most acres of land converted – Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, Florida, and Iowa – only two have a small portion of the state in the Prairie Pothole Region, most of the states near the top of the list, and a majority of converted acres are outside that scope.”
Bruckner’s analysis concludes that limiting the Sodsaver provision to the five state Prairie Pothole Region would provide inadequate protection for native grassland.