Protect Our Prairies Act; Your Voice for Prairie Is Needed Now!

Between 2000 and 2011, more than 23 million acres of grasslands, wetlands, and shrub lands in the United States were converted to crops. View the Assaults on the Prairie video for more.

Each of us can take action to protect our priceless remaining prairie remnants in Missouri and throughout the prairie region of the United States by voicing support for the Protect Our Prairies Act (H.R. 686), a bipartisan bill introduced by Representatives Noem (R-SD), Walz (D-MN), and six other cosponsors in February 2013. The Protect Our Prairies Act is common-sense legislation that would enact a national “sodsaver” provision that would reduce taxpayer-funded incentives to destroy vital grassland resources on private land. With rising crop insurance subsidies and high commodity prices, farmers not only have an incentive to convert native ecosystems to row crop production, but they are also protected from the risk of crop failures and low yields.

Most of the grassland that is currently being converted from native ecosystems to cropland is marginal, highly erodible, and prone to flooding. The Protect Our Prairie Act will reduce taxpayer-funded incentives to destroy vital grassland resources and habitats, providing multiple benefits to wildlife and taxpayers, while preserving farmers’ rights. The simple measures proposed in the bill to reduce the crop insurance subsidy for four years on newly broken grasslands without a cropping history, along with making such acres ineligible for yield substitution, will go a long way in removing government subsidies that influence farmers’ decisions to convert these sensitives lands to crops.

The Protect Our Prairies Act will still allow farmers to convert native prairie, but farmers would no longer be eligible for the same levels of federal subsidies. The Protect Our Prairies Act will also save an estimated $160 million in tax dollars over 10 years. For full details, read the Protect Our Prairies Fact Sheet.

How You Can Help Support the Protect Our Prairies Act: Contact the U.S. Representative from your district, ask for the staff person who works on agriculture policy, and tell that staff person that you urge his or her boss to co-sign this legislation, which will be a benefit to farmers, taxpayers, and wildlife. The support of Representative Vicki Hartzler, District 4, who is a member of the House Agriculture Committee, is especially key. Her office phone number is 202-225-2876. Find your U.S. Representative.

A companion bill, the Sodsaver Prairie Protection Act, was recently introduced in the Senate by Senator Thune of South Dakota, Senator Klobuchar of Minnesota, Senator Bennet of Colorado and others, action applauded by Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, National Sustainable Agriculture, Ducks Unlimited, and other groups.