FARM BILL'S SODSAVER PROVISION COULD AID WILDLIFE
Provision would withhold subsidies from land converted
from wildlife habitat to farm production
PRATT -- Southcentral Canada and the northcentral U.S. -- commonly known as the Prairie Pothole Region -- contain some of the best duck nesting habitat in North America. This year, late-summer habitat in this region is in good condition, but if provisions of the new federal Farm Bill are not adopted, much of this habitat could be converted to farm production, ruining its value for duck breeding. For Kansas duck hunters, and others throughout the Central Flyway, this could be bad news in the future.
Increased crop prices driven by demand for corn for ethanol production has put pressure on producers to convert native grasslands, which produce millions of the continent’s ducks. However, a strong "Sodsaver" provision in the Farm Bill could prevent further loss of native grasslands.
Sodsaver would eliminate all federal payments for crops planted on land with no previous cropping history. Landowners could still farm native grasslands, but with no federal assistance. Sodsaver would also level the economic playing field between ranchers and crop producers and provide substantial savings to U.S. taxpayers by reducing subsidy and disaster payments.
“Given the strong waterfowling tradition in Kansas, it’s important that all duck hunters understand what’s at stake with Sodsaver," says Faye McNew, waterfowl research biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. “We have a chance to protect these native grasslands through the Farm Bill."
During August, senators are in their respective states, giving constituents an opportunity to voice their opinions about the Sodsaver provisions. The Senate will draft its version of the Farm Bill in September.
The Prairie Pothole Region annually produces most of the ducks harvested in Kansas. If Sodsaver is not included in the 2007 farm bill, producers may convert much land to crop production, likely reducing duck production in future years. If so, the liberal duck seasons Kansas duck hunters have enjoyed for some time may be a thing of the past.
Those who wish to provide input on this issue may contact their senators by going online to the U.S. Senate's website, www.senate.gov, and pulling down the "Find Your Senators" menu in the upper right-hand corner of the page. Ducks Unlimited provides more information on Sodsaver at www.ducks.org/sodsaver.