On July 11, the House Agriculture Committee marked up their 2012 Farm Bill using as the foundation the bill language that was agreed to by Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (OK) and Ranking Democrat Collin Peterson (MN). Among the countless amendments that were offered was one introduced by Reps. Tim Walz (MN), Kristi Noem (SD) and Jeff Fortenberry (NE). The Walz-Noem-Fortenberry amendment called for the regional (restricted to the Prairie Pothole Region) Sodsaver provision included in the House farm bill to be applied nationally.
Sodsaver promotes management practices that conserve native grasslands, an iconic—and threatened—American ecosystem that provides essential habitat and breeding grounds for countless species of North American ducks, as well as pheasants and deer. Native grass also exists outside of the Prairie Pothole Region, so a national application is important. It is also possible that a solely regional application would invite criticism that farmers in that region are being disadvantaged, calling the program into question and threatening the provision's success.
"America's grasslands provide essential habitat for fish and wildlife and afford opportunities for outdoor recreation of all kinds," said Dan Wrinn, DU director of public policy. "But grasslands are also one of our most threatened ecosystems. Sodsaver presents Congress with a rare opportunity to save taxpayer money, protect an iconic American landscape and preserve the ability of farmers and ranchers to manage their lands as they see fit."
Ducks Unlimited's governmental affairs and regional policy staff were key advocates of the amendment's introduction and helped secure strong bipartisan support. Despite the intensive efforts of DU and several of its partners—including the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, the National Rifle Association, Pheasants Forever, The Nature Conservancy and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership—the amendment was ultimately withdrawn because Chairman Lucas managed the consideration of amendments very tightly and expressed serious concern about making Sodsaver a national provision. DU's farm bill interests will be better positioned going to the House floor by having no amendment considered, rather than rejected with a recorded "no" vote, so DU policy staff members concurred with the withdrawal by the sponsors.
As House plans for floor consideration materialize, we will further inform you how you can help DU ensure a farm bill victory.