N.D. Sens. Conrad and Dorgan support protecting native prairie

Ducks Unlimited hopeful Senate farm bill will contain strong Sodsaver provision

BISMARCK, N.D. September 13, 2007 – U.S. Senators Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota want native prairie protected in the farm bill. In a recent Bismarck Tribune article, both senators said they expect the Senate’s version of the farm bill to contain a Sodsaver provision designed to slow conversion of native grasslands to cropland.

“Senators Dorgan and Conrad are showing real leadership,” said Jeff Nelson, director of the Ducks Unlimited Great Plains Regional Office. “Their support for protection for grasslands and North Dakota ranching gives hope for a farm bill that will be both good for agriculture and conservation.”

Sodsaver would eliminate all federal payments for crops planted on land with no previous cropping history. Landowners could still farm native grasslands but would do so at their own risk without federal assistance.

Several national conservation groups and the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association support Sodsaver.

“This is a disappearing North Dakota natural treasure,” said Scott McLeod, DU’s farm bill lead in the Great Plains Regional Office. “Congress has an opportunity to protect these grasslands in the 2007 farm bill.”

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed its version of the farm bill that included Sodsaver. DU hopes the Senate backs-up the House vote with even stronger measures as it drafts its version of the bill.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, North Dakota lost 125,000 acres of native grassland to cropland from 2002 to 2006. That’s 195 square miles or the equivalent of a 1-mile wide strip from Bismarck to Fargo.

South Dakota lost 460 square miles during that same time.

“North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers need risk and disaster support on quality farmland,” McLeod said. “But the existing native grassland should be maintained for the ranchers, sportsmen and the people of North Dakota.

The Prairie Pothole Region annually produces nearly two out of every three ducks taken by duck hunters in the rest of the country.

“If Sodsaver isn’t included in the 2007 farm bill, it could negatively affect the continent’s duck populations and hunting in the United States,” Nelson said.

With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with almost 12 million acres conserved. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands - nature’s most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year.


MEDIA RESEARCH ALERT:

Contact: Jennifer P. Kross
Office: 701-355-3515
Mobile: 701-202-8896
jkross@ducks.org

Scott McLeod
701-355-3500
smcleod@ducks.org

For more information about Sodsaver go to: www.ducks.org/sodsaver