Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) today introduced legislation that would modify crop insurance premium assistance for insured crops grown on native sod converted to cropland and land that a producer cannot verify has ever been tilled. The Congressional Budget Office projects that this bill could save taxpayers $200 million over 10 years, and would encourage conservation of grasslands that pheasants, ducks, and other wildlife use as a habitat. This legislation is supported by farm and conservation groups including the National Farmers Union, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, and the National Wildlife Federation.
“Our sodsaver legislation makes common-sense changes to crop insurance saving taxpayers nearly $200 million,” said Thune. “This bill in no way prohibits a producer’s right to convert sod or longstanding grasslands to cropland, instead it simply prevents the less productive converted native sod from being insured the same as land that has been improved and farmed for several years. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to move this important legislation forward in the Farm Bill.”
“Both hunting and agriculture are vital to Minnesota’s economy,” Klobuchar said. “This legislation strengthens both by making common sense changes to the crop insurance program that save taxpayers money and encourage the protection of wildlife habitat, while also protecting our farmer’s freedom to use their land as they see fit.”
Both native sod and land that a producer cannot prove has ever been tilled have reduced production potential for the first few years after being converted to cropland –especially in dry years. Thune and Klobuchar’s legislation would cut the premium subsidy in half on this land and also reduce the maximum allowable indemnity. This legislation closes a loophole that allows producers to use historical yields from other more productive land on their newly broken ground, a practice called yield substitution. Recently converted cropland is often much less productive than longstanding cropland and by prohibiting yield substitution for four years the newly broken ground is insured for more realistic yields.Thune and Klobuchar’s bill is cosponsored by Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.).