DU: Report illustrates need for nationwide Sodsaver provisions

Ducks Unlimited today tweeted the link to an item on its website citing a Farm Service Agency report with a state-by-state breakdown of land converted to cropland in 2012. The five states that converted the most previously uncropped land to cropland were:

Nebraska: 54,876.60 acres.
South Dakota: 27,128.40 acres.
Texas: 26,395.2 acres.
Florida: 24,961.43 acres.
Iowa: 22,301.50 acres.

The DU news release also included a link to the full report so I thought I’d check to see where Minnesota and North Dakota ranked in conversion to cropland. Minnesota came in at 10th with 12,453.10 acres, while North Dakota was 14th at 9,908.40 acres.

Nationally, more than 343,000 acres were converted to cropland last year.

Also of note, DU said, is the fact that the one-year extension to the federal Farm Bill expired at midnight Sept. 30. That means no enrollment for the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetland Reserve Program and Grassland Reserve Program.

As DU said in its news release, there’s still time to get a five-year Farm Bill passed and enacted into law before the end of the year — here’s hoping that happens — but the conservation group continues to call for the legislation to include nationwide “Sodsaver” provisions.

Sodsaver would decrease federal subsidy support on land without a cropping history that’s converted to agriculture.The Senate version of the Farm Bill has a full Sodsaver provision, while the House legislation only targets states in the Prairie Pothole Region.

Problem is, DU says, South Dakota and Iowa are the only two states in the PPR that ranked among the top five last year for cropland conversion. That means grasslands in states as Nebraska, Texas and Florida — all among the top five for conversion to cropland — under the House Farm Bill wouldn’t have the protection a full Sodsaver program provides.

Whether Sodsaver becomes a sticking point when the two sides finally get together to reconcile their differences remains to be seen. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

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